The first ever free to air Premier League football match broadcast in the UK, drew an average audience of 903,000 viewers. The game between Manchester City and Fulham on February 4th was screened by ESPN and made available for free in nearly 19 million homes via Freeview as part of ESPN’s ‘Free Weekend’ promotion to showcase its content.
The figures were not even the highest of the weekend for Premier League football on UK television. The match between Chelsea and Manchester United on Sky the next day attracted an average audience of 2.7 million viewers.
However, the audience size was still a record draw for an ESPN-screened Premier League game in the UK since the channel first acquired rights in 2009. The figure was almost double the number who last watched a Manchester City match on ESPN – Spurs v City in August 2011 pulled in 491,000 viewers.
The ‘Free Weekend’ promotion is reported to have brought around 1.5 million first time viewers to ESPN, and thus internally was considered a success.
The Manchester City vs Fulham game was up against tough opposition as Six Nations rugby aired on the BBC at the same time. BBC1 showed England’s 13-6 win against Scotland and attracted 7.2 million viewers for the match.