Brexit Coverage Boosts U.K. News Ratings

BBC Broadcasting - Getty - H 2016
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The EU exit referendum and its fallout have "increased the public interest in news," says one observer.

Thursday's vote in the U.K. in favor of an EU exit, or Brexit, and the debate over its implications have boosted British news show and news channel ratings in recent days.

But Euro 2016 soccer has continued to reign supreme on TV in Britain, with England's Monday night 2-1 surprise loss to Iceland averaging 11.0 million viewers on ITV, for a 48.1 percent share, and peaking with 17.1 million (63.0 percent). Newspaper headlines and social media commentators dubbed the exit from the big European soccer tournament the second Brexit within a few days.

BBC's popular current affairs program The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday didn't reach such heights, but it nonetheless hit its highest ratings ever. In the 9 a.m.-10 a.m. spot it averaged 2.7 million viewers, or a 37.9 percent share of the TV audience at the time. The show looked at the fallout from the Brexit decision and trouble in Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

The show’s previous ratings high was 2.3 million viewers in May 2010 after the election of that year. The record outing was up from the show's average of 1.5 million over the past year, according to The day's lowest-rated Euro 2016 match, in which France beat Ireland 2-1, drew 4.5 million viewers in the 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m.? slot.

"Significant audiences have come to the BBC for rigorous, impartial analysis and coverage of the EU referendum," said Gavin Allen, controller of daily news programs at BBC News. "Our flagship political programs, such as The Andrew Marr Show and Newsnight, have seen increases in audiences, with Marr registering its biggest ever audience. We will continue to give our audiences the authoritative, reliable and accessible coverage they expect from us, as we explore what happens next and how it could impact their lives."

As the U.K. public broadcaster, the BBC, along with news channels BBC News and Sky News, has seen major ratings boosts from the Brexit vote and its fallout. For the three days post-referendum, ratings for the 9 a.m.-midnight period for Sky News average 133,700 viewers, and for BBC News 256,900. That compares to the past year's average of 76,200 and 138,500, according to

But ITV News has also seen some benefits. From 10 p.m. on Thursday night after the referendum closed through 2 a.m. the next morning, ITV averaged 1.2 million viewers with its coverage with a 2.7 million peak audience, up from its general election 2015 average of 900,000.

"ITV News 6 p.m. did slightly under benchmark [in recent days] possibly due to the Euro 2016 coverage at the same time," said's Alejandro Macias. "The 10 o'clock ITV news performed better than benchmark (2.1 million for a benchmark of 1.6 million), proving again an increased interest."

Concluded Marcias: "The referendum has raised an interest in politics." And it, along with "the political uncertainty" derived from its outcome, seems to have "increased the public interest in news," he added.