There was a combined peak audience of 31.1million viewers across the two terrestrial channels, along with an average of 21.8million and overall share of 82 per cent.
It was the third most watched TV event in UK history, behind the World Cup 1966 final at 32.3million and Princess Diana‘s funeral in September 1997 with 32.1million.
The total audience figure for last night’s broadcast could rise further once statistics for those streaming the game online on BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub are released later.
BBC One attracted a peak of 25million, an average of 17.8million and a 66.7 per cent share, while ITV1 had a 6.1million peak, 4million average and 15.4 per cent share.
The audience figures were provided today by TV ratings system Overnights.TV which uses data provided by the Broadcasters Audience Research Board.
The BBC said the match was streamed 6.9million times across its iPlayer and BBC Sport online platforms, but the level of overlap with the TV figures is not yet clear.
The total was also significantly above Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lockdown address to Britain in March 2020 which attracted a 28million peak over six channels.
England fans at Boxpark Croydon celebrate Luke Shaw scoring their team’s opener last night
England fans celebrate the team’s goal at the Trafalgar Square Fan Zone in London yesterday
The semi-final against Denmark last Wednesday attracted a 25.7million peak and 23.9million average on ITV1 and ITV1+1 combined. The quarter-final against Ukraine on BBC One saw a 20.9million peak and 19.8million average, while the second round against Germany, again on BBC One, had a 20.6million peak and 13million average.
It comes as England’s Three Lions, who had united the nation with their run to the final, saw their Euro 2020 dreams shattered last night with a cruel defeat to Italy.
Three missed spot kicks in a row, after the match finished 1-1 after extra time, handed the trophy to the Azzurri and saw England forced to wait for their first major tournament win since 1966.
Most watched TV events in UK history
- World Cup 1966 final (July 30, 1966 – BBC1/ITV) – 32.3million
- Princess Diana’s funeral (September 6, 1997 – BBC1/ITV) – 32.1million
- Euro 2020 final (July 11, 2021 – BBC1/ITV)
- Royal Family documentary (June 21 & 28, 1969 – BBC1/ITV) – 30.7million
- Apollo 13 splashdown (April 17, 1970 – BBC1/ITV) – 28.6million
Around 70,000 in the crowd at Wembley, along with the huge TV audience, had let out a collective roar when Luke Shaw scored for England after two minutes.
But their optimism dimmed when Italy equalised in the second half and the game moved into a nail-biting extra 30 minutes of play.
Both teams had scant chances to win the game before penalties as the anguished crowd tried to urge the Three Lions to victory.
Some bit their nails and others held their hands in the prayer position as the game reached a penalty shootout.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford pulled off a brilliant save to give England the advantage before Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho missed their kicks to give Italy the lead in the shootout.
Pickford then pulled off more heroics to deny Chelsea midfielder Jorginho from 12 yards.
But England teenage star Bukayo Saka, who had been one of the breakout stars during the tournament, had his penalty saved to dash the hopes of millions.
At the final whistle, manager Gareth Southgate put his arm around the young Arsenal attacker, 19, and offered words of comfort.
Fans watch the penalty shootout during the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England at Fistral Beach Bar in Newquay last night
England’s Jadon Sancho (centre) stands dejected at the end of the game after missing from the penalty spot during the shootout following the Euro 2020 Final at Wembley Stadium last night
After the game, the tearful players applauded the crowd who had done so much to urge their team on.
Breakdown of last night’s TV audience
- BBC One – 25.0m peak (17.8m average) – 66.7% share
- ITV1 – 6.1m peak (4.0m average) – 15.4% share
- Combined – 31.1m peak (21.8m average) – 82% share
Southgate and the team will be in line for a string of gongs after their wonderful run to the final with calls for the manager at least to be knighted.
But the honour they all wanted slipped from their grasp in the most heart-wrenching of ways.
Ex-England striker Alan Shearer said: ‘Football is a cruel, cruel game. It is such a shame that it has to come down to a situation like this.
‘I just feel for Rashford, Sancho and Saka. It is a lot to take for young players to take on for the future.’
The crowd include Prince William and Kate Middleton along with their son Prince George – while Boris Johnson, wearing an England shirt with his name on the back above the number 10, was also in the stadium with his wife Carrie.
Others in the crowd were supermodel Kate Moss and Sir Geoff Hurst, who famously scored a hat-trick when England beat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final.
England’s next scheduled match is a World Cup 2022 qualifier against Hungary at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on September 2, live on ITV.
Source: Daily Mail UK