Soccer draws peak auds in U.K., Italy

Euro 2012 eclipses Royal Wedding ratings

LONDON — The peak audience on flagship web BBC1 for England’s exit from the Euro 2012 soccer tournament eclipsed that of last year’s royal wedding.

Viewing figures for Sunday’s game against Italy, which ended with England losing a penalty shoot out after extra time, hit 23.2 million (a 77% share), easily beating the 19.9 million who tuned in to BBC1 to watch the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The match was the most-watched event on U.K. TV this year, and had the highest peak-viewing figure for any channel in eight years. The previous peak came when England lost to Portugal in Euro 2004 — also via a penalty shoot-out — when 23.9 million shared the pain.

The average audience was 17.4 million, netting a 62.3% share, the third-highest audience on any of the U.K. terrestrial channels in the past four years. The final of “Britain’s Got Talent” drew 17.7 million in 2009, while the same year’s final of “The X Factor” achieved 17.42 million.

The marathon match, which totalled 120 minutes with extra time plus the penalty shoot out, also magnetized Italian auds, scoring a whopping 74% average audience share on pubcaster RAI, drawing 19.4 million viewers. Ratings soared to an 85% share during the high-tension penalty-kicks finale.

The best ratings rival Mediaset was able to muster during the game was a 4.2 share for “Grease,” watched by 1 million viewers.

The soccer tourney now enters the semi-finals, with Portugal and Spain playing on Wednesday, and Germany against Italy on Thursday. The final is on Sunday.

(Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.)