BBC: Prince William, Kate Middleton's Wedding Could Have Biggest TV Audience 'in History'

Kate Middleton & Prince William - 2010
Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Networks are already devoting hours of airtime to the couple’s engagement, announced Tuesday.

LONDON - One thing is certain - it will be the television event of 2011. And the news that Prince William is to marry his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton will have a tangible impact on the British economy as well as the tourist, fashion and political landscapes here.

The surprise engagement announcement had broadcasters ripping up their schedules and the 24-hour news networks deploying reporters at various locations around the country

Almost a billion TV viewers watched the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana and the wedding of their eldest son can be expected to vastly exceed that audience almost thirty years on.

“Today's news will be greeted with huge interest and excitement and we very much hope we will be able to broadcast the service to the U.K. and the world. If that is the case, there is no doubt the wedding will be enjoyed by one of the biggest audiences in history,” a BBC spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter.

The broadcaster will now go into planning mode for a wedding scheduled for sometime next spring, and will devote hours over airtime to coverage of the first such wedding in almost 25 years.

Sky News and the BBC had camera crews outside the Middleton family home in Bucklebury in Berkshire from mid-morning, interviewing a succession of bemused dog-walkers in the ultra-rural setting while no members of the family seemed anywhere near. Sky News moved the entirety of its Afternoon Live program to outside Buckingham Palace, where anchor Kay Burley interviewed a series of guests in near-freezing conditions.

And at Prince Charles' royal residence Clarence House, crush barriers were being hastily erected and armed police were patrolling in preparation for the Royal couple's first television appearance and post-engagement photoshoot expected on Tuesday evening.

The BBC has cancelled its evening line-up with a new program at 7:30 on William & Kate: A Royal Engagement and a news special at 11:20 pm, mulling over the new role for the bride, while Sky News is broadcasting William And Kate: A Royal Wedding.

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the news, which he said he learned of at the Cabinet meeting.

“I was passed a piece of paper and announced the news in the middle of the Cabinet meeting, and a great cheer went up around the room. As well as this being a great moment for national celebration this is also about two young people and we must give them plenty of space to ready themselves,” he told cameras outside Downing Street.

“But obviously it is a great day for the country and a great day for the Royal Family and a great day for Prince William and for Kate.”

Opposition leader Ed Miliband – in a departure from political protocol - Tweeted his good wishes to the happy couple.

As well as being an enormous tourist draw for the U.K. – over two million people are expected to line the Mall and congregate around Buckingham Palace – the State and popular implications of a royal wedding means that bride's fashion choices will also be the subject of huge interest.

“She'll be almost certainly wearing a British designer,” according to Marie Claire deputy editor Charlotte Moore, who said there was huge potential upside for the British fashion industry with a new Royal icon in its midst.

“She is probably likely to go for a British designer for her wedding dress and that designer is made. Once you have made the future Queen's wedding dress your name is everywhere and the same goes for the hair and pictures,” she told Sky News.

“There's such a huge amount of talent around in the British fashion industry – she could go for someone super trendy like or Erdem or go down a more traditional route in Bruce Oldfield or Amanda Wakeley. Every kind of outlet she is going to be wearing before that wedding is something we are going to be watching.”