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Thursday, August 12, 1999 Published at 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK

TV eclipse breaks record

The BBC pulled in the lion's share of audience figures

Television viewing figures reached a record high during the eclipse on Wednesday, with more than 13 million people tuning in.

The spectacular solar event pulled in a record number of viewers for a daytime event during the working day.

It was also a record-breaking day for BBC News Online as Internet users logged on to watch video clips and share their eclipse experiences.

As tens of millions of Britons gazed up at the sky in awe, 12.8 million tuned into the BBC's live coverage of the event.

ITV, which had originally decided not to screen the event, attracted an audience of 0.6 million after a last-minute change of heart.

Stopping work

Previous high daytime viewing figures have included royal weddings, funerals and sporting events.

The wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales, for example, attracted 28.4 million viewers. But that was on a public holiday.

As much of Britain stopped work to witness the event, demand for electricity plummeted.

A record-breaking power surge hit the National Grid as life returned to normal after the solar eclipse.

Even England's 1990 football World Cup shoot-out with Germany was put in the shade by a massive 3,000 megawatt rush.

An average of 8.6 million people watched the BBC's coverage of the run-up to the eclipse, with this figure peaking at 12.8 million in the last minutes of the run-up to totality.

Web records

The eclipse also broke records on the Internet.

BBC News Online recorded 20% more page views than its previous best day.

The number of users was 30% up. They visited the site for live reports and video coverage of the event, and the dedicated eclipse website.

Talking Point was bombarded with at least 20 questions a minute.

The Sky News Website was accessed by 162,000 people during its live webcast.

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