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Royal Baby: ITV Live Special Becomes Day's Most Watched U.K. Program

Kate Middleton Prince William with Baby - P 2013
AFP/Getty Images
Kate Middleton and Prince William with their baby.

The network beat the BBC with a peak audience of 7.5 million as Kate Middleton and Prince William left the hospital with their newborn as U.K. news channels again recorded a share boost.

LONDON – An ITV news special on Tuesday night that covered Kate Middleton's and Prince William's departure from hospital with their newborn son was the day's most watched TV program in Britain, according to data released on Wednesday.

ITV's coverage in the 7-7:30 p.m. time slot reached an average of 6.9 million viewers, for a share of 35 percent of total TV viewers at the time, the network said. It reported a peak audience of 7.5 million, or 37 percent. That made the live special coverage the day's most watched program across the U.K.

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ITV News royal correspondent Tim Ewart tweeted: "Impressive figures for our ITV royal baby special yesterday: 7.5 million viewers, 37% audience share, day's most watched TV show."

Ewart played a key role late Tuesday as the royal couple emerged from the hospital. He had won a coin toss and got to ask the first question

Meanwhile, BBC One started airing magazine show The One Show at 7 p.m., but then switched to live coverage of the royal couple's hospital departure at 7:13 p.m., picking up the coverage of its BBC News sibling channel. But the baby coverage that followed drew fewer viewers than ITV. A BBC spokeswoman said the BBC News special drew 3.3 million viewers on average and peaked with 3.9 million viewers.

During Wimbledon, the BBC, at times, opted to stick with the tennis coverage on BBC One when Scottish star Andy Murray played late and moved shows to its BBC Two channel.

On Monday, a late evening royal baby special on ITV had also outperformed a similar program on BBC One, but its audience was smaller than on Tuesday when the key event happened at an earlier time and followed soon after nightly evening newscasts. 

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The royal baby coverage also once again boosted the ratings of Britain's news channels. BBC News and Sky News were running near wall-to-wall coverage since Monday morning, when Middleton went into labor.

BBC News on Tuesday peaked with 1.45 million viewers, a share of 7.8 percent, while BSkyB's Sky News peaked with 0.85 million, a share of 4.7 percent.

BBC News was Tuesday's most popular channel outside the five main U.K. networks on Tuesday, with a 3.7 percent all-day share, the Guardian reported. That compares with a three-month average of 1.1 percent. Sky News boosted its full-day share to 2.2 percent from a three-month average of 0.7 percent.

On Monday, BBC News had an all-day share of 2.8 percent, while Sky News boosted its share to 1.6.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai