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England’s penalty shootout drama reels in TV viewers

London (AFP) – The largest British audience for a live sporting event since the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics watched England’s dramatic penalty shootout with Colombia as Gareth Southgate’s team reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2006.

English commercial broadcaster ITV — who share the live rights with BBC — said 23.6 million viewers tuned in for five minutes of the shootout in Moscow whilst an average of 20.1 million watched the game in its entirety.

According to ITV’s figures, the most-watched single minute of Tuesday’s game was 9:52pm (2052 GMT), when 24.4 million people tuned in.

At this point roughly four in five people watching TV in the United Kingdom (81 percent) were tuned to ITV.

The 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony on the BBC drew 26.3 million television viewers. 

Tuesday’s match fell some way short of two other World Cup matches involving England, both of which went to penalties with the English losing out on both occasions.

The record average audience in the United Kingdom in the past 30 years is the 26.2 million who watched England’s semi-final against West Germany in 1990 — fractionally higher than the 26 million who turned on for England’s second round match with Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.

However, those figures will come under serious threat when BBC show England’s quarter-final with Sweden on Saturday in Samara with the kick-off at 1400 GMT. 

The record audience for a live event of any kind in the past 25 years is the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997, which attracted 32 million spectators.   

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