Up for the Cup
Viewing figures are now in for the FA Cup Final. I was in Cardiff and it was by far the best Final I've seen - so credit to both teams.
I'd like to think that being entertaining, even if you lose as West Ham did, means the event lives vastly longer in people's memories. And the early indications are that audience appreciation seems to have been very high.
We started at 3pm with 6.8m viewers - 57% of people viewing TV at that time. By 4 o'clock the number had risen to 8.2m (60% of the total viewing audience); and at 5pm it went over the 10m mark, making it the most-viewed sport event of 2006.
Then for the penalty shoot-out we had 11.3m viewers - a 65% share of the market. In other words every other channel and service in the UK was competing for the remaining 35% of viewers. It was the second highest FA Cup audience of this decade.
And if you like statistics, as you can tell I do, and want to compare with recent finals...
Here are the peak audiences for the 9 other most recent finals:
2005 Arsenal v Man U 12.8m
2004 Man U v Millwall 6.8m
2003 Arsenal v Southampton 9.6m
2002 Arsenal v Chelsea 7.4m
2001 Liverpool v Arsenal 7.8m
2000 Chelsea v Aston Villa 8.3m
1999 Man U v Newcastle 11.2m
1998 Arsenal v Newcastle 8.9m
1997 Chelsea v Middlesbrough 12.2m
Worth pointing out that various people have said at times (a) the FA Cup isn't what it was or (b) terrestrial television has had its day. But to get the kind of audiences we've seen for the finals this year and last, and with viewing figures for the whole tournament higher in 2005-6 than 2004-5, suggests the Cup is very much alive. And many people yesterday had a choice between BBC coverage and Sky coverage - with Sky's peak just 700,000.