World darts final secures Sky Sports’ best-ever non-football audience

(Pieter Verbeek/BSR Agency/Getty Images)
(Pieter Verbeek/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Sky amassed a total of 4.8 million viewers for last night’s PDC World Darts Championship final featuring 16-year-old Luke Littler, making it the most-watched darts event ever on the pay-television broadcaster and its Now streaming service.

Sky’s linear television audience peaked at 3.71 million as Luke Humphries defeated debutant Littler to claim his first World Championship title. It is Sky Sports’ highest peak audience away from football.

Records were also broken once again in Germany as Sport1 pulled in a peak of 2.86 million viewers during live coverage of the final on its eponymous free-to-air channel.

There were 27.6 million video views from the final across Sky Sports’ various social media channels.

News of the record ratings comes as the UK pay-TV broadcaster announced today (Thursday) that it has commissioned an “access-all-areas premium documentary series” following the stories of various top darts players.

Matt Porter, chief executive of the Professional Darts Corporation, said: “This year’s World Championship was record-breaking on every level and it’s fitting that its final reached the biggest audience in the history of the PDC and Sky darts.

Tuesday’s semi-final between Littler and Rob Cross attracted a peak audience of 2.32 million subscriber on Sky. That was in line with audiences for Sky’s live Premier League coverage, and represented a 40-per-cent rise on the broadcaster’s previous record for a World Darts Championship clash, the 1.65 million viewers for the 2015 final between Phil Taylor and Gary Anderson.

The Littler-Cross match averaged 1.79 million across the eight sets.

Despite the hype around Littler, Sky indicated that it received no offers from UK free-to-air broadcasters to sublicense the rights to the final.

Littler’s victory over Brendan Dolan on Monday evening was the most-watched quarter-final of the World Darts Championship on Sky on record, with a peak audience of 1.4 million. The quartet of fixtures also ensured Sky Sports’ best-ever New Years Day audience figures.

German viewing records

While there was no German representation in the latter stages of the World Darts Championship, Littler’s emergence captivated viewers in the country.

Sport1’s coverage of the two semi-finals generated an average audience of 1.49 million on free-to-air television, peaking at 2.24 million viewers.

The 2.86-million peak for the final bettered the existing record of 2.73 million for the 2018 final between Cross and Taylor.

Sport1’s average of 1.91 million viewers for last night’s final was its second-highest for a PDC world final. The audience share was 8.9 per cent among viewers over three years old but 21.8 per cent among men between 14 and 49.

The 28 sessions during the tournament attracted an average of 610,000 viewers on Sport1, another all-time record for the sports broadcaster which was last year put up for sale by owner Highlight Communications. There were over 17.7 million streams requested on across all sessions.

Sport1 has shown the PDC World Darts Championship in German-speaking countries since 2004, and presently holds sublicensed free-to-air rights from DAZN, the OTT subscription broadcaster, under the terms of a five-year deal struck in January 2022.

Sport1 attracted an average audience of 1.72 million and a peak of 2.36 million viewers for live coverage of last year’s World Darts Championship final between England’s Michael Smith and Michael van Gerwen of the Netherlands.

That represented the broadcaster’s second-highest audience of all time for the final, behind the average of 2.15 million – and peak of 2.73 million – for Taylor’s last final in 2018.

German audiences’ interest in last year’s Championship was fuelled by the performances of local star Gabriel Clemens, who lost to Smith in the semi-final, when the three-million audience mark was breached for the first time. The average audience for that match was 3.31 million, with a peak of 3.78 million.

The World Darts Championship traditionally attracted strong audiences in the Netherlands when it was shown by commercial free-to-air broadcaster RTL. However, the tournament is now streamed by the Viaplay Group, which has yet to reveal audience figures for this year.

In neighbouring Belgium, VTM, the commercial broadcaster in the Flemish-speaking region, drew an average audience of 341,670 for live coverage of the final on the VTM2 channel. Some viewers in the Netherlands are able to access VTM2 via satellite decoders.