4.7m watch BBC election coverage led by Huw Edwards as Channel 4 audience halves

The BBC’s first overnight election coverage not led by David Dimbleby in nearly 40 years has maintained its place at the top of the TV ratings.

BBC News at Ten anchor Huw Edwards helmed the 11-hour marathon for the first time, drawing in a reported 4.26m viewers on BBC One between 9.55pm and 2am, only slightly down from 4.4m for the last election in 2017.

It peaked at 6.1m between 10.05pm and 10.10pm as the results of the exit poll, which predicted a sizeable Conservative majority, were analysed.

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Dimbleby had planned to host his final general election broadcast in 2015, but decided to work through the night again for the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 election, his tenth as anchor.

According to BBC journalist Lizo Mzimba, an additional 0.39m viewers watched overnight on the BBC News Channel, bringing the combined average viewership of the corporation’s coverage to 4.65m.

Edwards was joined by “inquisitor-in-chief” Andrew Neil, political editor Laura Kuenssberg and other colleagues, including Jeremy Vine, Naga Munchetty and Reeta Chakrabarti.

The BBC revealed on Saturday that its election programming reached a total of 26.5m viewers with a record 27.3m browsers of BBC News online in the UK.

ITV said it had its highest viewing figures for a general election night since 2005, with an average of 1.4m viewers between 10pm and 2am.

Host Tom Bradby and guests Evening Standard editor George Osborne and former shadow chancellor Ed Balls were watched by an average of 2.6m viewers in the first ten minutes after the exit poll was announced.

ITV said its figure was up 27 per cent from 2017 and that it had accounted for 20.4 per cent of all the election result coverage, up from 15.5 per cent at the last election.

Sky has said its overnight coverage between 9pm and 9am, hosted by Dermot Murnaghan, reached more than 2.7m people across Sky News and Sky One.

It had a peak of 2m viewers as the exit poll came in at 10pm on Sky News on TV, online and on its app, and an average of 270,000 viewers across the 12-hour programme.

But Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night more than halved its average viewership from 582,000 with Jeremy Paxman in 2017 to 244,000.

The programme, hosted by Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy with comedian Katharine Ryan and Celebrity Big Brother winner Rylan Clark-Neal, was on air between 9.55pm and 6am, but viewing figures only cover the period to 2am.

The election also drove some record readership figures for news websites.

The i editor Oly Duff said the title’s website broke its audience record three days in a row, culminating at 7.51pm last night – just over two hours before the polls closed. He said 22 of the 25 top stories at that time were politics.

CLARIFICATION: This article originally shared reported figures claiming that Sky News’ coverage was seen by an audience of 45,700 overnight viewers. It has now been amended to reflect figures since shared with Press Gazette by Sky.

Picture: BBC

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6 thoughts on “4.7m watch BBC election coverage led by Huw Edwards as Channel 4 audience halves”

  1. Fascinating. The people who want to see Brexit delivered left Sky News in high numbers when they saw that Bercow was a guest. I was one of them.

  2. On election night I stayed up until about 3:30am. The channel I watched most was BBC One, followed by Sky News and ITV, and I also visited the BBC and Sky News websites briefly. I wasn’t satisfied with any of the TV coverage because they spent too much time interviewing a succession of guests and their own correspondents about an exit poll and not enough time explaining the results and especially comparing results with anything earlier than the last election. I was particularly disappointed with the BBC News website because I couldn’t find lists of the results that had actually been declared or the seats that had changed hands.

    It never occurred to me to watch Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night. The first edition in 2010 was awful, the second edition in 2015 was even worse because it lacked the two potentially funniest people from the 2010 edition and I don’t think I watched the third edition in 2017. When I saw who had been booked to be on the 2019 edition I had no expectation that it would be either funny or insightful and then forgot that it was going to be on. I did catch part of The Last Leg’s Election Special the following night but soon gave up because it reminded me of why I stopped watching The Last Leg: it values shallow, over-emotional preaching to the converted over comedy.

    The BBC, Channel 4 and ITV are no longer willing or able to produce funny, informative and original topical or political comedy. They don’t have the guts to do it and they can’t find anyone talented enough to do it so they either stick with a tired show (Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week, The Last Leg) and third-rate panel show comedians trotting out lazy jokes or give up (ITV). Still, there is going to be an end-of-2019 edition of Frankie Boyle’s New World Order so I wonder who is going to be on that, apart from Sara Pascoe, Miles Jupp, Roisin Conaty, Richard Osman, Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Akala.

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