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Election TV ratings: BBC is clear winner but Channel 4 doubles 2019 audience

BBC reached audience of 4.2 million for exit poll reveal and analysis between 10pm and 11pm.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Three million fewer people tuned in to traditional TV programming for last night’s exit poll revealing a predicted Labour landslide compared to the last election night in 2019.

A cumulative 7.3 million people watched the 10pm coverage across BBC One, ITV, Channel 4, Sky News, GB News and the BBC News Channel on Thursday according to audience estimates by Barb.

This compares to 9.9 million in December 2019.

BBC One remained the clear winner with 4.2 million across the hour but lost almost a third of its viewership since the last UK general election when Huw Edwards was the host. This year Clive Myrie and Laura Kuenssberg jointly led proceedings.

ITV, whose coverage was led for the fourth time by Tom Bradby, also lost one million to reach 1.3 million.

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By contrast Channel 4, whose coverage was led by Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Emily Maitlis along with panellists including Alastair Campbell, Rory Stewart, Kwasi Kwarteng and Nadine Dorries as well as Gogglebox stars, doubled its viewership to 930,000 as compared with 2019.

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Sky News, which saw hosts including lead presenter Kay Burley gasping and laughing off-screen as the exit poll predictions were shown, was up slightly from 512,000 to 530,000 compared with 2019. Including the Sky Showcase channel this reached a peak of 742,000 at 10pm across the two channels. Sky Showcase is a linear-only main event channel that curates the best content from Sky’s various entertainment brands.

A Sky News spokesperson also shared a combined 10pm peak figure across TV, its website, app and Youtube of 2.5 million.

[Election 2024: How broadcasters covered UK general election]

BBC1 had an average audience of 2.9 million between 9.50pm and 2am (the latest available at the time of writing) with a peak of 4.5 million, making an average audience share of 37%.

The ITV News average viewership between 9.50pm to 2am was 840,000 with a peak of 1.4 million. This gave them an average share of audience of 10%.

ITV News editor Andrew Dagnell said: "We delivered exceptional coverage, thanks to our unrivalled team of journalists, political analysts and psephologists. As the election results were announced, and the political landscape became clearer, our audience peaked at 1.4 million, with many staying with us all the way until 6 am."

Channel 4 had an average audience of 664,000 peaking at one million, with an average share of 8.5%.

A Sky spokesperson said its coverage reached a total of 2.5 million viewers between 9pm and 2am across Sky News and Sky Showcase.

They also said the Sky News website and app had almost 24 million page views and more than 2.07 million livestream views between 9pm and 9am and that their coverage had 4.8 million livestream views on Sky News platforms, Youtube and Tiktok by midday on Friday.

Channel 4 head of news, current affairs, specialist factual and sport Louisa Compton said their programme "shook up TV coverage and drew more young people than any channel aside from BBC1.

"The ITN Productions team did a tremendous job of creating a noisy, disruptive and insightful alternative that attracted more than three million viewers in the first few hours. We set out to provide the most informed analysis of any broadcaster and we certainly achieved it."

Emily Maitlis and Krishnan Guru-Murthy at the start of Channel 4's overnight election coverage. Picture: Channel 4/Youtube screenshot
Emily Maitlis and Krishnan Guru-Murthy at the start of Channel 4's overnight election coverage. Picture: Channel 4/Youtube screenshot

TV critic Scott Bryan ranked Channel 4's coverage highest, followed by the BBC, Sky News then ITV News and finally GB News.

In The Guardian, critic Jack Seale said Sky News "did pull off the presentational story of the evening, in the form of their holographic Keir Starmer" and joked that it was the "place to be" for the exit poll due to Burley's gasping. "But better that than the confused gawping on Channel 4, which had to cover for its lack of advance access to the exit poll."

The Independent's chief TV critic Nick Hilton described the BBC's Myrie as "an adequate, if not especially nimble, emcee" but said his exit poll analysis done in alternating sentences with co-host Kuenssberg "had nothing of the gravitas of Dimbleby or Edwards".

Hilton also described ITV's coverage as "the most middling and unambitious of all the broadcasters" but said that overall the four main channels (he gave no mention of GB News) provided "exhausting, patience-testing but oddly moving testaments to the great exercise of democracy".

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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