The average audience for England’s opening match of the Rugby World Cup was 7.8m, making it the most watched sporting event this year.
ITV’s ratings peaked at 9.4m, or more than four in 10 of those watching at the time, as England opened their account with an at times nervy victory over Fiji. The average audience for the match, between kick-off and final whistle, was 8.7m viewers. The figures will cheer ITV Sport executives, contemplating six weeks in which its exclusive live coverage will dominate weekends on the channel.
However, the figures are still well below the 14.4m that tuned in to watch England play Italy in football’s World Cup last year, despite that match kicking off at 11pm UK time. That 2-1 defeat was the most watched sporting event so far this year, ahead of the FA Cup final, but ITV will hope that next weekend’s clash with Wales will comfortably beat it.
From next year, ITV will begin sharing live coverage of the Six Nations with the BBC. It will show all 48 Rugby World Cup matches live, the majority on ITV1.