Philip Hunter /
05.23.2011
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
UK royal wedding showed disruptive effect of OTT on audience ratings

The UK royal wedding was this year's opportunity to assess the rapidly growing impact of online viewing on mass audience viewing, particularly in the UK, where the official total number of people who watched at some time as counted by the Broadcasting Audience Research Board (BARB) was 26.3 million. This was slightly less than the UK's last royal wedding involving an heir to the throne between Princess Diana and Prince Charles, father of Prince William, in 1981, which attracted 28.4 million. The current wedding had been expected to beat that, and it almost certainly did, but only when online viewing figures are taken into account. Such figures are hard to count, being almost the black economy of the TV world, although the BBC estimated that there were around 8 million viewers either of its iPlayer online catch-up service or live streaming. YouTube does count unique viewers, and there were over 1.3 million worldwide for royal wedding coverage, but again it is debatable whether all of these catch-up viewers should be counted alongside the live audience.

The royal wedding also gave a chance, in the UK especially, to assess the impact of customer loyalty and the voice over on viewing, given that virtually identical pictures were shown on most of the flagship channels, including BBC1, ITV1 and Sky News. BBC1 took 73.7 percent of the total audience with 18.9 million viewers, with ITV1 a distant second on 22 percent at 5.9 million, while Sky News only managed 2.5 percent, or 661,000. This showed the continuing loyalty to the longstanding terrestrial broadcasters, BBC and ITV, when content is not at issue. It also highlighted the value of having a top commentator, with the BBC's coverage hosted by its highly popular news reader and current affairs presenter, Huw Edwards.

In the U.S., the total live audience for the royal wedding was 22.7 million according to ratings agency Nielsen, which at nearly 10 percent of the country's viewing population was well up to expectations given that people had to get up very early to watch it. The country with the largest number of live viewers of the wedding was India, with the official number 42.1 million according to ratings agency aMap.



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