Soccer grabs 48% share for BBC

England match attracts 13 million viewers

LONDON — It may have been a new low for English soccer, but live coverage of the crunch European Championship qualifying match between England and Croatia gave BBC1 one of its highest audiences in recent times.

As the tension gathered in what at one point looked like being a two all draw, more than 13 million tuned in — double the figure watching ITV1’s reality saga “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!” in the same slot.

In the nail-biting final 15 minutes of the match, which England had to at least to draw in order to qualify for next year’s Euro tournament, BBC1 captured a 48% share — some 13.2 million viewers, according to overnight viewing figures.

On ITV1 “Celebrity” had to settle for 5.8 million.

But the news is potentially far worse for ITV in the long term as media watchers predicted that England’s failure to qualify could end up costing the commercial broadcaster up to $24 million in lost revenue.

In Blighty, ITV and the BBC are sharing the rights to the tournament.

Without England’s participation the championship is unlikely to excite domestic TV audiences apart from diehard soccer fans.

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