U.K.'s BBC Wins With Sports Weekend, Hands ITV Big Ratings Defeat

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The Euro 2012 soccer tournament and Wimbledon on the public broadcaster left ITV with its weakest performance of at least the modern ratings age.

LONDON - Viewership for the BBC's coverage of the first weekend of the Wimbledon tennis tournament and the final of the Euro 2012 soccer championships drove the public broadcaster to a big weekend ratings win and handed ITV a major defeat.

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Both big sporting events are part of what has been billed the "summer of sports" here given that the Summer Olympics kick off here on July 27. That will be followed by the Paralympics.

The U.K. public broadcaster's coverage of both tournaments pushed commercial broadcaster ITV's ratings to their lowest weekend levels at least since the start of the modern ratings system in 2002.  The Guardian said it may have even be the channel's worst figures since its launch in 1955.

Sunday night's Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy drew six times as many viewers on BBC1 than on ITV1. And late Saturday Wimbledon heroics from Britain's own Andy Murray also boosted the BBC1 performance.

ITV1 was left with only a 7.9 percent share of the overall TV audience for the weekend. BBC1, meanwhile, had its biggest lead over ITV1 since the 2006 soccer World Cup. Its Saturday audience share amounted to 27.6 percent, and its Sunday share to 25.3 percent. In primetime, the share reached 29.4 percent and 37.7 percent, respectively.

But ITV's overall Euro 2012 average audience hit 6.2 million, up from 4.6 million in 2008.
Meanwhile, the BBC's audience performance for the first week of Wimbledon seemed slightly down from 2011 due to the soccer competition, according to some data.

But there was some conflicting data. A BBC spokeswoman said average viewership for the first week of the annual Wimbledon tennis championship amounted to about 2.1 million across BBC1 and BBC2, virtually unchanged from last year.

Research firm Attentional, citing official BARB data, said that BBC1 averaged 2.56 million viewers for Wimbledon's first week, and BBC2 averaged 1.13 million, compared with 2.68 million and 1.49 million last year.

The second week of Wimbledon could draw more viewers as the tournament enters its final stages and there is no more competition from soccer.

STORY: Euro 2012 Final Continues Soccer Tournament's Ratings Reign

Euro 2012, which wrapped up Sunday with Spain's 4-0 victory over Italy, drew strong ratings, with records reached in various countries and on a pan-European basis. That has also been true in soccer-crazy Britain, even though the English national team was eliminated in the quarterfinals on the Sunday before Wimbledon started and even though tabloid The Sun asked "Anyone for tennis?” on its front page, suggesting sports fans switch over to Wimbledon after the nation's latest soccer disappointment.

The ratings difference between the soccer and tennis events last week was particularly pronounced during big games.

For example, BBC One’s live broadcast of the Portugal versus Spain semifinal drew a peak audience of 13.5 million, or a 55.9 percent share. An average of 10.2 million Brits, or 43 percent of the viewing public, watched the entire match. Wimbledon coverage on BBC Two drew only 1.4 million, or 8 percent of the TV audience, that night.

On Thursday night, Italy's semifinal win over Germany on BBC1 averaged 8.1 million viewers, or a 37 percent share, making it the biggest TV draw of the night. It reached a peak of 12.0 million, or nearly 49 percent.

Wimbledon also drew strong numbers that day though as one of the favorites, Rafael Nadal, was shockingly eliminated by unknown Czech player Lukas Rosol in a five-sets thriller that drew a peak audience of nearly 5 million on BBC2, or a 22.2 percent share. The average audience was 1.8 million, or an 8.8 percent share.
Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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