The interview aired on U.K. broadcaster ITV on Monday, where it aired in a 9 p.m. slot. At its peak, the CBS sit-down — which sparked a bidding war in the U.K., as revealed by Variety — had 12.3 million tuned in to the broadcaster.
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The special is the second most watched TV program of the year so far, second only to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s national address in January to announce new lockdown measures.
This was ITV’s biggest peak audience since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final and the biggest on any channel, outside of government and pandemic-related announcements, since the “Strictly Come Dancing” final on BBC One in December 2020.
The interview also drew the biggest 16-34 age group TV audience for overnight viewing, outside of news programming, since ITV’s “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” last year.
Some 2.2 million viewers streamed the interview on ITV Hub.
To put these numbers in historical context, the 1995 BBC “Panorama” interview of Princess Diana by Martin Bashir drew an audience of 22.8 million, though the media market was far less fragmented than it is now.
In 2019, Prince Andrew’s interview by Emily Maitlis on a special edition of the BBC “Newsnight” program about his relationship with the late Jeffrey Epstein drew viewers, and scathing critiques in droves. It drew 1.7 million viewers, a high number for the program, the BBC said at the time. On YouTube, the interview has been watched 3.8 million times.
ITV CEO Carolyn McCall in an earnings call on Tuesday said the company had a sweepstake on the ratings for the special, which has made waves on both sides of the pond. The program attracted around 17.2 million viewers in the U.S.
Sources told Variety that ITV paid “in the ballpark” of £1 million ($1.4 million) for rights to the special, eventually besting Discovery.
McCall declined to reveal how much exactly the broadcaster earned in revenue from the program. “We wouldn’t disclose separately what we did on any one program,” said the CEO. “What I will say is that obviously, anything like this, we would look at as rate of return. And I think we will cover the cost of the program, put it that way.”
“We would have seen this as special event TV, so we would have sold it differently to the rest of trading, but it does get slightly merged with other deals that already booked in to go at nine o’clock,” McCall said.
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