A combined peak audience of 8.3 million saw England’s dramatic World Cup final win play out on television, but despite the interest in the cricket, the BBC was able to boast the best sporting viewing figures of the weekend, with a peak audience of 9.6m tuning in to watch the men’s final at Wimbledon between winner Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Free-to-air viewers were able to watch England’s cricketers live for the first time since the 2005 Ashes series after Sky Sports agreed for Channel 4 to also show the Lord’s clash with New Zealand.
The decision – widely celebrated – was vindicated with Channel 4 saying on Monday that the audience peaked at 8.3m, with 4.8m of those watching on the terrestrial channel.
“I’m thrilled that a total peak audience of 8.3m watched England win the Cricket World Cup final on Channel 4 and Sky,” said Channel 4’s chief executive Alex Mahon.
Channel 4 also shared live coverage of the British Grand Prix, won by home favourite Lewis Hamilton, which 3.7m viewers saw across the two networks.
“It’s wonderful that the whole nation can come together to share these momentous British sporting events thanks to a fantastic partnership between Channel 4 and Sky,” Mahon added.
Sky was also celebrating the figures, with UK and Ireland chief executive Stephen Van Rooyen saying: “Congratulations to England and everyone who has been part of the journey at the ECB. The ICC put on a terrific tournament.
“We’ve been proud host broadcasters of a home Cricket World Cup, dedicating a channel and showing every single minute, which has been absorbing from the first ball to the unforgettable final delivery.
“Sunday saw a peak across Sky and Channel 4 of 8.3 million – a huge audience for a huge moment for British sport. On Sky’s channels our peak was 3.5m alone, a fitting way to cap a terrific tournament.
“We are proud of our long-term cricket partnership, which has grown over three decades, delivering record investment into the sport. This partnership will continue with our coverage of the men’s and women’s Ashes this summer, and by working with the ECB to deliver a new grassroots cricket participation campaign.”
The 2005 Ashes series, arguably the most gripping Test series ever witnessed, was shown on Channel 4 and, despite its popularity, was the last international cricket to be shown on free-to-air in the UK.
Critics have said being behind a paywall has cost the English game but, while acknowledging the joy of having the game broadcast into more homes than usual, Ashley Giles, the director of cricket for the England men’s team, said Sky’s role should not be overlooked.
Giles, who played in that 2005 series, said on Radio 4: “First of all, we have got cricket back on terrestrial next year – our new competition, The Hundred. It’s going to be magnificent and the BBC are showing that.
“But make no mistake, the investment Sky has put into the game has helped us get to the point where we were at yesterday.”
Asked if England would not have been able to win the World Cup without Sky’s financial backing, Giles said: “Quite possibly, yes. The investment in the game from grassroots to professional has allowed us to do what we’ve done.
“Sky took the game on and have been fantastic supporters since. Thank you to them for allowing it on Channel 4.”