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.
From his late mother’s funeral last year, to the weddings of his sons William and Harry, King Charles III knows better than anyone what the expectations are when broadcasting royal set pieces.
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, Freeview 233, Virgin 603, BT 313, and Saorview 23 – and on Sky Showcase (7am-3pm). The Ultra HD broadcast will be available to those watching on Sky Glass or Sky Q via the red button.
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.
Queen Elizabeth II’s life in pictures
Six moments that defined Queen’s reign
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.
But if you want to go big, the King’s (and the Queen Consort‘s, lest we forget) coronation will be beamed on to more than 30 massive public screens across the UK.
Where will the public screenings take place?
- Glass Works, Barnsley
- Belfast City Hall, Belfast
- Centenary Square, Birmingham
- City Park, Bradford
- Jubilee Square, Brighton
- Bristol Cathedral, Bristol
- Bristol and Bath Science Park, Bristol
- Lower Gardens, Bournemouth
- Cardiff Castle, Cardiff
- The Quomps, Christchurch
- Broadgate, Coventry
- Darlington Market Square, Darlington
- Derby Cathedral, Derby
- Dewsbury Library, Dewsbury
- Himley Hall, Dudley
- Piece Hall, Halifax
- St Peter’s Parish Church, Huddersfield
- City Hall, Hull
- Trinity Market, Hull
- Millennium Square, Leeds
- De Montfort University, Leicester
- London (location TBC)
- Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester
- Newcastle Upon Tyne (location TBC)
- Nottingham (location TBC)
- Northumberland (location TBC)
- Parliament Square, Oldham
- Plymouth (location TBC)
- Baiter Park, Poole
- Sandwell Valley Showground, Sandwell
- Scotland (location TBC)
- Peace Gardens, Sheffield
- The Core, Solihull
- Smithfield, Hanley City Centre, Stoke-on-Trent
- Sunderland (multiple locations across the city TBC)
- Pontefract Castle, Wakefield
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.
King picks music for coronation
First portrait of King Charles III released
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.
How to host a coronation street party
When can pubs stay open until for coronation?
Memorable quotes from Charles’s decades as heir to the throne
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.