England’s World Cup victory over Tunisia was the most-watched TV programme of 2018 so far.
An average audience of 13.7 million saw the team open their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 win, thanks to a pair of goals from captain Harry Kane.
Ratings peaked at 18.3 million during the closing minutes, when more than two-thirds (69%) of all UK TV viewers were tuned to the match.
“Astonishing for an opening group game,” tweeted Gary Lineker, who introduced the match on BBC One. “The power of football and the World Cup.”
“Bloody Nora!” he added.
The match easily beat the audience for the royal wedding in May, along with the year’s previous most-watched programme, Britain’s Got Talent.
In addition, three million requests were made to stream the match online via the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport – the highest ever live viewing for any BBC programme online.
The game’s average audience – 13.7 million – could well be revised upwards when the full ratings are published next week, which will include those who recorded the match and watched up to seven days later.
Some of the largest audiences in UK television history have been for England World Cup games.
England’s semi-final clash with West Germany in 1990 was watched by 25.2 million people – the highest ever ratings for a World Cup match – while 23.8 million saw England play Argentina in the round of 16 in 1998.
If England make it into the knock-out stages of this year’s tournament, TV audiences could once again top 20 million.
England’s second group match against Panama is on BBC One on Sunday June 24. Coverage starts at 12.10pm, with kick-off at 1pm.