England-Italy Becomes Top-Rated Euro 2012 Soccer Match

Wayne Rooney - H 2012
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The quarterfinal on Sunday saw more than 20 million Brits watch the English team lose on penalties, making for a bigger audience than last year's royal wedding.

Defeat for England in the Euro 2012 soccer championships was a victory for the BBC and broadcasters across Europe as the nail-biter quarterfinal match between England and Italy Sunday night scored a new high-water mark for the tournament in the two nations and in terms of cumulative viewership across Europe.

In England, a peak audience of 23.2 million viewers, a 77 percent share of peope watching TV at the time (and almost half the population of England) watched as their team lost, again, after a penalty shoot-out. It was the highest soccer rating for any British channel since Euro 2004 when England exited that tournament, also on penalties.

An average of 20.3 million viewers, a 68 percent audience share, tuned to BBC 1 and BBC1HD from the 7:45pm kickoff to the end of the shootout at 10:20pm local time, while 17.4 million (62 percent) watched the entire 3 hour, 45 minute coverage, including pre- and post-match analysis.

The game was easily the most-watched fixture of the tournament so far in the U.K., beating the live match average of 16.1 million for England's final group game against Ukraine on ITV1, as well as 14.1 million for the Sweden match on BBC1, and 12.3 million for the opener against France on ITV1. Sunday night's prime-time viewing figures also significantly outstripped averages for the last major live TV event broadcast by the BBC, the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton in April 2011.

In Italy, the showdown with England also became the top-rated game of the tournament to-date as 19.5 million fans tuned in for a share of 74.6 percent. That compares to the tournament average of 11.6 million, a 50.7 percent share.

England versus Italy also easily also topped the Sunday ratings race across Europe – with 19.3 million German viewers, a 56.2 percent share, tuning in on public broadcaster ARD and 6.1 million (27.5 percent) watching on France’s M6, enough to win the night for the French commercial network.

But home team advantage played out as expected for the remaining quarterfinal games. A peak of 12.6 million Spanish viewers tuned into Telecinco’s coverage of their team’s 2-0 quarterfinal defeat of France. The audience figure - 76.7 percent – was just behind the 77.2 percent of Spaniards that watched Spain defeat the Netherlands in the World Cup final in 2010. In France, 11.3 million, or 52 percent of the television audience, watched the match on TF1. 

Germany’s viewing figures peaked for their team’s 4-2 rout of Greece Friday night as 26.8 million Germans, a 77.8 percent share, watched the match on public broadcast network ZDF, slightly shy of the 27.7 million (78.6 percent) that tuned in for Germany’s quarterfinal win over Portugal in Euro 2008.

Pamela Rolfe in Madrid, Eric J. Lyman in Rome, Rebecca Leffler in Paris and Georg Szalai in London contributed to this report.