‘Love Island,’ Soccer and Tennis Score in Epic U.K. TV Ratings Battle

Love Island 2021 Cast
(C) ITV Plc

It was a straight up fight between dating and soccer for U.K. television audiences on Monday evening as the Euros squared off against the first episode of “Love Island” season 7.

ITV Studios’ “Love Island,” which premiered at 9 p.m., achieved a peak of 2.8 million (13.1%) near the end of its 95-minute episode on ITV. It had an average viewership of 2.5 million (11.9%). The ratings were published in U.K. outlet Broadcast, with figures supplied by Overnights.tv.

In the ongoing UEFA Euro 2020 soccer championship, Spain defeated Croatia while fancied France were eliminated by Switzerland in a shock result after a penalty shootout. The latter game attracted a mighty 10.5 million (58.9%) viewers, also on ITV, while over on the BBC, the Wimbledon tennis tournament attracted 3.3 million (17%).

According to Broadcast, the “Love Island” numbers lagged behind its 2019 summer edition, which drew 3.4 million (19.3%), and its inaugural 2020 winter edition, which attracted 2.7 million (13.7%).

The contestants — or “Islanders” as they’re known on ITV’s top rated reality show — are filmed in a Mallorca villa, using around 69 cameras to catch their every move, including their most intimate moments.

Despite a slight makeover for the villa, this season has seemingly stuck close to the show’s format. In the season premiere, female contestants arrived first, and then selected the male Islanders they want to “couple up” with. Over the course of the next six to eight weeks (producers haven’t yet disclosed a duration for this season, though typically the show airs across two months), more cast members will come and go from the villa.

This year’s program is the first summer season since 2019, with last year’s “Love Island” getting canceled due to the pandemic. ITV stuck to its guns and refused to air a U.K.-based edition during the pandemic, noting that doing so would take away from the scale of the series, which is easily Britain’s biggest reality show.

It is also the first summer season to air since the program’s former host, Caroline Flack, died by suicide in February 2020 while awaiting trial for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend. Her death followed that of two other “Love Island” contestants: Sophie Gradon in 2018 and Mike Thalassitis in 2019. Flack’s friend, Irish presenter Laura Whitmore, has taken over hosting duties.

The show, which is one of ITV’s most successful, has come under much scrutiny in recent years regarding the wellbeing of its contestants, and the network recently released its updated Duty of Care protocols, which promise social media training, financial advice and therapy sessions following the ending of the season to ensure contestants’ welfare and mental health.