24 million in U.K. watch royal wedding

BBC nabs lion's share of eyeballs

Nearly 23 mil watch wedding live in U.S.

London– The U.K. TV ratings for Friday’s royal wedding on main webs BBC1 and ITV1 peaked at more than 24 million.

It’s a huge audience but not as big as the 28.4 million that tuned in for Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding in 1981 or the 32.1 million that watched Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.

Viewing peaked between 11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. as Prince William and Kate Middleton tied the knot at Westminster Abbey, ratings body BARB estimates.

BBC1, BBC1 HD and the BBC News channel attracted a total of 19.2 million people during that period, for a 67.2 audience share.

Commercial web ITV1 said its coverage of the royal marriage attracted 5.9 million during the same period.

The fact that most viewers chose the BBC was hardly surprising. In Blighty TV audiences tend to flock to the pubcaster for state occasions and other big national events.

The BBC said that 9.4 million people had on average watched its coverage, anchored by news presenter Huw Edwards, between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., with 17.5 million watching during the last 15 minutes of that period.

Across the BBC, including online, a total of 34.7 million people tuned in to watch some part of the wedding, with more than 1 million Brits using its VOD service, the BBC iPlayer, to catch the coverage.

BBC deputy director general Mark Byford said: “The huge audience of so many millions who shared the day with the BBC is a testament to all those involved in producing such high-quality and distinctive coverage, and proves once again that the BBC is the broadcaster of choice for audiences during big national events.”

ITV director of television Peter Fincham said: “We are delighted that more than six million viewers were watching ITV as the royal wedding ceremony got under way and are very pleased that the audience increasingly chose to stay with us during the afternoon, which also reflects the fantastic feedback we have had about our coverage.”

The ratings were high enough to put the event in the all-time top 10 most-watched U.K. programs. The record holder is the 1966 World Cup soccer final when England beat West Germany, which drew 32.3 million viewers.

It was estimated that around 8,500 journalists were in London for the wedding.

The BBC had the largest contingent with around 550 staff on royal wedding duties, at a reported cost of $3.3 million.