One of the less polite topics of conversation in the past two weeks was whether Queen Elizabeth II’s death “outsold” Princess Diana’s death. Diana’s death was sudden and mysterious, and the reaction to Diana’s death was a whole other thing entirely, with people flooding London, the flowers outside of Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, and the Windsors refusing to leave Balmoral. The nation was “prepared” for QEII’s death, the pageantry was expected (and it delivered) and all of it was very beautiful and stoic. It feels wrong to compare the two events, but the thing is, the undercurrent of all of the British media’s coverage was “the death of QEII must be bigger than Diana’s death.” I bring this up because Diana’s funeral outsold.
More people in the UK tuned in to watch the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy than switched on their TVs for the Queen’s funeral on Monday, figures suggest. The official ratings for the historic royal event were released on Tuesday afternoon – revealing that not only was the footballing event a bigger draw in the UK, but Princess Diana’s televised funeral had higher viewing figures back in 1997.
According to the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (Barb) – which is responsible for recording TV audiences – around 28.5m people tuned in to view the Queen’s funeral across the main channels of BBC One, BBC Two, ITV (or STV), Sky News and BBC News.
This compares to the 29.85m who watched Italy beat England on penalties last summer, and the 31m who watched as Princess Diana was laid to rest 25 years ago. The numbers for the Queen’s state funeral may not be conclusive, given that the event was broadcast across so many different television channels.
It had been predicted by industry experts that a global viewing figures record would be set by the Queen’s passing, with some expecting the number of people watching to exceed four billion.
Historian Dr Andrew Keil commented on the figures being lower than anticipated.
“Interesting comparison to audiences for the EURO2020 final,” he noted. “Also means that only about less than half of the UK population tuned in [when there was hardly any alternative thing to do than watch the state funeral].”
SNP strategist Ross Colquhoun suggested that figures were a result of changes in media consumption.
“I guess it shows how people have changed how they consume news, Diana’s funeral was viewed by around 32.1 million,” he pointed out.
Well, well. I mean, it’s still a huge audience and we have to take into account that many people probably watched the funeral in pubs or what have you. But yeah, it was definitely the end of a 70-year reign and most people were like “okay, I watched for an hour, I’m good.” Besides, I bet several million of those viewers were just watching to see the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. I mean, there’s a reason why all of the broadcasters chose lingering shots of Prince Harry – to drive up ratings.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images.