Whether weddings or funerals, few live events have the nation seeking out a screen quite like one involving the royals.
Aside from England going deep into a major football tournament, the Windsors have proved the most consistently reliable boost to any broadcaster’s viewing figures ever since Queen’s Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.
That day, 2 June, was the first royal service to be televised – and for many it was the first live event they ever watched on TV. More than 20 million people watched the coronation on the BBC – the first time a TV audience outnumbered a radio audience, spearheading the trend for households across the UK to invest in their own screen.
On average, they cost about £45 – that’s north of £1,000 in today’s money. For that, you would get a black and white screen measuring a whopping nine inches. It proved a fine investment if you were a fan of the royals, as they quickly became a staple of the broadcasting schedule – including the monarch’s Christmas message.
Now, many British households have a TV for almost every room in the house – while most of us rarely have a smartphone out of reach.
If you want to watch the King’s coronation on 6 May, you certainly won’t be short of ways to do so.
Back to the broadcasters…
It goes without saying that you can watch the coronation on TV.
What happens on the big day?
No precise time has been announced yet, but the coronation service will take place in the morning of Saturday 6 May.
The King and Queen Consort will arrive at Westminster Abbey in a procession from Buckingham Palace, known as The King’s Procession.
After the service, Their Majesties along with other members of the Royal Family will go back to the palace in a larger procession, known as The Coronation Procession.
The Royal Family will then appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to bring the day to a close.
Following on Sunday will be a Coronation Concert, live from Windsor Castle on TV and radio and with a star-studded cast of musicians and big names including Take That, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie.
The BBC-produced concert will include a set piece called Lighting up the Nation, when iconic locations across the UK are lit up using projections, lasers, drones, and other lights.
Of course, the ‘boxes’ look rather different these days. In 1953, families and neighbours would have to crowd around small black and white screens, housed in bulky wooden cubes that made them look more like Doctor Who monsters than a modern flat screen.
Sky News will be among the broadcasters showing the 2023 coronation from Westminster Abbey.
And in a TV milestone, you’ll be able to watch it in Ultra HD for free on Sky News on Sky channel 501 and Sky Showcase channel 106 (7am-3pm) . The Ultra HD broadcast will be available to those watching on Sky Glass, Sky Stream or Sky Q via the red button. Non-Sky customers can watch UHD coverage on the Sky News YouTube channel with a compatible TV.
Coverage will also be available to watch for free on Freeview channel 233, Virgin channel 603, BT channel 313 and Saorview channel 23
Ad breaks will be removed between 9am-3pm on Sky News to ensure uninterrupted coverage of the main event. You can also watch multiple live streams on the Sky News website, app and on our YouTube channel.
The BBC will waive the licence fee for venues putting on community screenings, such as churches and village halls, while ITV will also be showing the coronation live, as will news channels outside the UK.
In the US, for example, CNN is among those expected to be at the abbey.
Broadcasting the coronation overseas will certainly be less of a faff than it was in 1953, when engineers had to make 35mm film recordings to be flown over the Atlantic as soon as the ceremony had aired in Britain. It meant American audiences had to wait to catch up on the pomp and pageantry.
The biggest screens…
Modern TVs pump out a fair few more pixels than the screens that showed Queen Elizabeth II take the throne. And they can even broadcast in colour.
WHERE WILL THE PUBLIC SCREENINGS TAKE PLACE?
Meadows Community Centre, Cambridge
Clay Farm Centre, Cambridge
Commemoration Hall, Huntingdon
Valence Park, Dagenham
Walpole Park, Ealing (SOLD OUT)
St James’s Park
Centenary Square, Birmingham
Himley Hall, Dudley
De Montfort University, Leicester
Sandwell Valley Showground, Sandwell
The Core Theatre, Solihull
Houghton Rectory Park, Houghton le Spring
Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
Backhouse Park, Sunderland
Barnes Park, Sunderland
Hylton Castle, Sunderland
Washington Galleries, Sunderland
Keel Square / Park Lane, Sunderland
Eurovision Village, Liverpool
Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester
Parliament Square, Oldham
Jubilee Square, Brighton
Westquay Esplanade, Southampton
Lower Gardens, Bournemouth
The Quomps, Christchurch
The Barbican, Plymouth
Baiter Park, Poole
Bristol & Bath Science Park, South Gloucestershire
Yorkshire & Humber
City Park, Bradford
Market Square, Darlington
The Piece Hall, Halifax
St Peter’s Parish Church, Huddersfield
Queen Victoria Square, Hull
Trinity Market, Hull
Millennium Square, Leeds
Peace Gardens, Sheffield
The Glass Works, Barnsley
Ross Bandstand, Edinburgh
Roald Dahl Plass, Cardiff
Antrim Castle Gardens
People’s Park, Ballymena
City Hall, Belfast
Town Hall, Bessbrook
Marine Gardens, Carrickfergus
Town Hall, Coleraine
Town Park, Larne
Market Square, Lisburn
Jordanstown Loughshore Park, Newtownabbey
They will certainly be easier to crowd around than the TVs in the pubs and social clubs of the 1950s.
The aforementioned waiving of the licence fee will also cover cinemas, should they wish to show the coronation (although His Majesty will be going head-to-head against Marvel’s new Guardians Of The Galaxy that weekend).
Chains like Cineworld and Odeon have not announced plans to show the coronation, but several independent multiplexes around the country are already taking bookings. Among them are Trinity Arts Centre in Gainsborough and Abbeygate Cinema in Bury St Edmunds.
Councils up and down the country have already announced their plans for public screenings. In a brave vote of confidence in the British weather, some are outdoors.
You should check your local council’s website for details.
The smallest screens…
Never mind how much our viewing habits have changed since 1953, they have changed plenty even since the King (then Prince of Wales) watched his eldest son marry Kate Middleton in 2011.
That was the same year that YouTube launched livestreaming and the initially gaming-focused Twitch launched, two moves that would have an enormous impact on how we watched live events. Live streams are now a fixture of every social media platform and news website.
Whether following live while on the move or catching up later in the day, chances are you’ll watch a whole host of coronation content in the palm of your hands over the course of the long weekend.
Increasing numbers of us are primarily watching our entertainment on our phones, and the coronation will be livestreamed across platforms like YouTube, with highlights set to be clipped up and shared across the likes of Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.
Upon the death of Queen Elizabeth II, 2.6 million people watched Sky News live on the app. Sky News also had its biggest single day on YouTube during the funeral, with more than 42 million views – double the number of people who had watched her coronation live.
There were also hundreds of millions of views across all of Twitter, TikTok, and Snapchat, highlighting quite how dramatic the shift has been in how we consume news and live TV.
As if the central role of the smartphone had not been stressed enough, the coronation’s official emblem has even been created by former Apple designer Sir Jony Ive – the man behind the look of the iPhone.
And based on recent research by Ofcom, younger viewers may well choose to split their attention between the coronation and something completely different. After all, they’ll think, what better way to watch the King being crowned than to “split-screen” it with your favourite influencer playing Fortnite?
Speaking of which…
As the coronation will be livestreamed on YouTube, you could even watch via your PlayStation if you really wanted, flipping between Westminster and your game of FIFA as the King no doubt intended.
For the mobile among you, the Nintendo Switch is an option. For something chill to accompany proceedings, we recommend Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley – after all, the King is a passionate gardener.