A peak viewing figure of 507,400 people tuned into Virgin Media One on Saturday to watch Rachael Blackmore make history by becoming the first woman to ride the winner of the Randox Aintree Grand National.

That consolidated strong viewing figures across a number of key sporting properties on the station revealed yesterday.

It set a record for its share of the TV audience on Super Saturday of March 20th, the scheduled final day of the Guinness Six Nations.

41.7 per cent of the highly prized 15-44 audience were watching at some point during that day.

The biggest viewing figure for a single game was the 798,400 average audience for Ireland’s narrow defeat to France on February 14th. The figure for that match in 2020, played at the end of October was 50,000 higher but the overall audience throughout the tournament was up by 22 per cent.

2021 was the final year of the current four-year broadcast deal that Virgin Media signed with Six Nations. It is currently understood to be part of the bidding process for the next round of rights. With the loss of UEFA Champions League and Europa League fixtures from that next round of rights, there will be some money in the bank but there is a strong feeling that at least some of the games could go behind a paywall this time round.

The Grand National figures followed on from a popular Cheltenham Festival in March, no doubt helped by working from home, when an average daily audience of 191,000 was secured, peaking at 213,000 for the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The power of televised sport for broadcasters remains its attraction towards live watching as opposed to time-shifting. There is less of an urge to buzz through the ads like many do during the watching back of a programme that is not live.


Sport for Business Partners