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August 8, 2005
England's thrilling victory in the second Test helped Channel 4 to a record audience. On the third day, 4.1 million viewers tuned in to see Andrew Flintoff take the home side to the brink, taking the Channel's audience share for the whole day to 15.1% of viewers - the best Saturday for the channel since it was set up 22 years ago. Only once has cricket brought in more viewers for the channel, when 5.2 million watched another extraordinary day's play, the Friday of the pivotal Lord's Test in 2000, when West Indies were bowled out for 54.
The same number of viewers - 4.1 million - tuned in for the climax on Sunday, bagging the channel a 45% share of the terrestrial audience. This was more than four times the number who had tuned in at the same time the week before to watch the soap Hollyoaks on the same channel. Yesterday, as England closed in on victory, the shipping forecast was even delayed.
This is the last Test series to be broadcast terrestrially in the UK before full coverage moves to Sky. The only cricket to be shown terrestrially will be on Channel 5, who have won the rights to show highlights.
For now, though, England's cricket fans could count themselves lucky as Channel 4 delayed their news bulletin on Saturday. Viewers in Hong Kong were less fortunate on the final morning when, as the match reached its conclusion, a TV company suddenly dropped its broadcast to switch to the one-sided Test between New Zealand and Zimbabwe. "We felt it would better suit smoother scheduling for our customers if we switched matches," a spokeswoman for the broadcaster NOW Broadband told AFP.
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