The France '98 opening game between Brazil and Scotland, which kicked off at 4.30pm, nearly tripled the average afternoon audience on the main channels. It is the largest ever rating for a World Cup opening game, overshadowing even the Euro '96 England vs Scotland match, which pulled in 11.7 million viewers.
Described by the BBC as "sensational", the unprecedented numbers tuning in bode ill for employers expecting a full turn out of staff on Monday. England's opening match against Tunisia kicks off even earlier, at 1.30pm, and BBC insiders predict at least 16 million "stay at homes" for the true beginning of World Cup fever.
Wednesday's match attracted an average of 12 million viewers at kick- off with a steady build-up to a peak of 14 million as people arrived home from work at 6pm. The actual viewing figures for the game will have been even higher as ratings statistics only include viewers watching from home, not those watching in pubs, clubs or at work.Reuse content