LONDON (Reuters) - More than 8 million people in Britain tuned in to watch England win the Cricket World Cup on Sunday following the decision by Sky decision to allow the final to be shown on a free-to-air channel.
After criticism that England’s earlier matches had only been watched by under a million viewers on Sky’s (CMCSA.O) subscription-based channels, the broadcaster made Sunday’s finale against New Zealand available on Channel 4.
“I’m thrilled that a total peak audience of 8.3m watched England win the Cricket World Cup. It’s wonderful that the whole nation can come together to share these momentous British sporting events,” said Alex Mahon, chief executive at Channel 4.
More than 50 percent of those who watched the dramatic match, which England won on boundary count after a tied Super Over, did so on Channel 4.
However, despite being available to more people, the cricket failed to top numbers who watched the BBC’s coverage of the thrilling Wimbledon tennis Men’ Singles Final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, which took place at the same time and peaked at 9.6 million viewers.
The lack of free-to-air coverage of England’s progress through the competition was blamed for the failure to generate the excitement of other major sporting competitions.
More than 11 million viewers in Britain tuned watched the England women’s soccer team in the semi-final of the World Cup in France for free on the BBC, making it the country’s most widely viewed broadcast of 2019.
The 2005 Ashes series against Australia attracted an audience of some 8.4 million, but the number of viewers dwindled after the decision was made to screen all England games on subscription channels.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said the World Cup victory would live forever in British sporting history and cricket chiefs are hopeful the game will inspire more young people to play the game.
“It’s also exciting to think just how many children will be inspired by this victory to pick up a bat for the first time and hopefully become the great cricketers and World Cup winners of tomorrow,” May’s spokesman said
Editing by Michael Holden