Over 5.5 million viewers tuned in to watch Sunday’s Merseyside derby in the English Premier League, breaking the UK audience record for the competition on Sky Sports.
Viewership of the 7pm match between Liverpool and their local rivals Everton peaked at 5.5 million and averaged 5 million across the channels it was shown.
Pay-TV broadcaster Sky, the Premier League’s main domestic broadcaster, elected to show the match free-to-air on its Pick digital terrestrial channel and basic-tier subscription channel Sky One in addition to its premium Sky Sports channels.
A 1.9 million average audience watched the game on the Pick channel, while 3.1 million viewers watched across the Sky Sports channels and Sky One.
The previous audience record for Sky Sports was registered during the 2012 Manchester derby which was also shown on free-to-air, attracting an audience of just over 4 million.
All of the remaining 92 matches in this year’s Premier League are being shown on television with a third being made available free-to-air after the resumption of the league on the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
The thinking is fans will be less likely to gather at stadiums and breach social-distancing guidelines if the matches are more freely available.
UK public-service broadcaster BBC showed its first ever live coverage of the Premier League on Saturday in Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth.
The match audience peaked at 3.9 million people with an average viewership of 3.6 million across the match. It attracted a 24.5-per-cent audience share overall.
It was the first time the BBC had shown top-flight English league football since 1988. The broadcaster had shown coverage of the English top-flight before it was rebranded as the Premier League.
The BBC already holds UK audiovisual highlights rights to the Premier League, which allows it to broadcast highlights of all 380 Premier League games in each of the three seasons from 2019-20 to 2021-22 on its flagship Match of the Day programme.
The BBC said that return of Match of the Day to its Saturday night BBC One slot pulled in a peak TV audience of 2.7 million.