The Desk appreciates the support of readers who purchase products or services through links on our website. Learn more...

5 million watch ITV 1 debate between Sunak, Starmer

From left: Labour leader Keir Starmer, ITV presenter Julie Etchingham and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
From left: Labour leader Keir Starmer, ITV presenter Julie Etchingham and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Courtesy image)

Around 5 million British TV households watched a live debate between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer on ITV this week, according to figures released by the broadcaster.

The debate on Tuesday peaked with 5.5 million people watching on ITV’s flagship broadcast network ITV 1, as well as the outlet’s streaming service ITVX, overnight ratings data cited by ITV revealed.

When including the debate, ITV’s broadcast networks grabbed 71 percent of young viewers between the ages of 16 and 34 years old on Tuesday, the network said. The figure was bolstered by a new episode of the reality series “Love Island” on ITV 2 and the UEFA Euro 2025 qualifier between England and France airing on ITV 4, which also drew a sizable audience in the youth demographic. A repeat of a crime drama aired on ITV 3 in the same time slot as the debate.

ITV is one of Britain’s four main public service broadcasters in the United Kingdom, and is the only privately-held commercial TV operation that is based entirely in the country. The U.K.’s other commercial operation, Channel 5, is owned by American media conglomerate Paramount Global. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Channel 4 are considered publicly-owned broadcast entities.

It was not the first time ITV aired a political debate between a current and a former prime minister: In 2019, the broadcaster produced a similar debate between Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former London Mayor Boris Johnson. That debate drew an average audience of 6.7 million to ITV 1, according to ratings data, breaking a record for the most-watched debate between candidates on British TV.

The Corbyn-Johnson debate was the only event of its type on television during that election cycle. The same won’t be the case for Sunak and Starmer, who are set to participate in a seven-way debate that will air on the BBC later this week.

Get stories like these in your inbox, plus free breaking news alerts on business and policy matters involving media and tech.

Get stories like these in your inbox, plus free breaking news alerts on business and policy matters involving media and tech.

Photo of author

About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
Home » News » Industries » Television » 5 million watch ITV 1 debate between Sunak, Starmer