On Monday, nine days after her death on September 8, HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral service aired live on TV networks across Canada.
It is nearly 70 years and a far cry from the early days of television when, in 1953, the Queen’s coronation was paraded in the streets of London. It was filmed, swiftly processed and flown on air force planes to Canada where it was shown a miraculous 11 hours later on Canada’s three CBC TV stations.
This past week plus, coverage of the Queen’s final homecoming has moved at a much slower pace. As Bill Maher said Friday Night on HBO’s Real Time, “Have you been watching the Queen’s funeral? Don’t tell me how it ends, I’m only on Season Three.”
Maher’s comments seemed typical of a time when news cycles of even the biggest stories seem to last a day-and-a-half at best. Streaming favourites such as The Crown have probably diluted many viewers’ fascinations with the actual royal family, or at least led to the impression that they are part of some royal prime time soap. My favourite TV critic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, recently posted that while he admired The Queen, he sees the rest of her family as “merely wealthy, overdressed brand ambassadors for Britain, shilling for the company that supports them.”
Still, television loves a good show and The UK does these gilded carriage and piper parades best. Monday’s North American coverage of the funeral proceedings extended into a private church ceremony in Ottawa. By 2 pm ET, however, most of the non-news channels had switched back to regularly scheduled programming. CBS aired The Talk, although they led with a live report from London featuring CBS New anchor Norah O’Donnell. CTV, on the other hand, pre-empted Dr. Phil for more royal blather.
Over on Citytv, where much was made of the hiring of ex-CTV News anchor Lisa LaFlamme as a “special correspondent,” we joined a simulcast of General Hospital already in progress.
Are the royals still a ratings magnet or are viewers switching off with the passing of the Queen? An early indication of the royal’s current appeal may be held in some early, overnight ratings from last week:
Last Wednesday morning, for example, a CTV News special: Queen Elisabeth: A Life, drew an estimated 477,000 overnight viewers. About 10 per cent of those viewers were in the 18-34-year-old range. CBC also had a live, three-hour news special that same morning titled, “The Queen’s Coffin Travels to Westminister Hall.” That pulled an estimated, overnight tally of 132,000 on CBC and a further 308,000 on CBC News Network in terms of viewers ages 2+.
Now, in this age of diminished live ratings, at that hour of the morning, that’s not bad.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many younger viewers do not watch TV in the traditional way. They stream more and more content from their phones and other devices. CTV.ca, for example, drew over 300,000 viewers on-line for their early morning Queen Elizabeth coverage, with a higher proportion in the younger demo.
More and more, overnights are like a halftime report. Of more interest will be the total, Live+7 take. The time zone difference, a big factor, means many across Canada were on their way to work for these morning shows. Will these numbers double or triple in the final reports? And how will Monday’s coverage of the final ceremonies fare? Hopefully the networks themselves will share this data, information Numeris says it will no longer offer the public.
No more weekly Top-30 reports is indeed a royal pain.