Audience figures revealed for Sheffield Cathedral service on TV

Outside broadcast vans were parked up outside Sheffield Cathedral for the BBC's visit. Picture: Chris Etchells
Outside broadcast vans were parked up outside Sheffield Cathedral for the BBC's visit. Picture: Chris Etchells

Hundreds of thousands of people watched a live television broadcast of a church service from Sheffield Cathedral.

Official viewing figures show that 400,000 people tuned in to see the cathedral's Sung Eucharist as it happened on BBC One on Easter Day earlier this month.

Rev Canon Keith Farrow inside Sheffield Cathedral, where lights and cameras had to be installed ready for the TV broadcast. Picture: Chris Etchells

Rev Canon Keith Farrow inside Sheffield Cathedral, where lights and cameras had to be installed ready for the TV broadcast. Picture: Chris Etchells

The audience statistic, confirmed by the BBC, is the overnight figure that doesn't include people who have watched the broadcast on the iPlayer service, or recorded it to view later.

The programme put the cathedral at the heart of the nation's Easter festivities on April 1, and was understood to be the first ever transmission of its kind from the venue.

Cathedral dean the Very Rev Peter Bradley led the service featuring readings, choral singing and music from a brass ensemble, while the Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Dr Pete Wilcox, preached. Following the hour-long Eucharist, the BBC switched to cameras at the Vatican in Rome for Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi blessing.

The Rev Canon Keith Farrow, the Anglican cathedral's canon missioner, previously said the corporation came up with the idea. "We thought it would be a good opportunity. Broadcasting it live brings a greater sense of excitement that we can reach people we've probably never reached before."

He added: "It's the first time we've been on TV. We've been on the radio a few times over the years for evensong, but I believe it's the first live broadcast, to my knowledge. I don't think we've ever had Songs of Praise. But even Songs of Praise is pre-recorded."

The bishop's sermon focused on themes of reconciliation, touching on Brexit, gun law reform in the USA and tensions on the Korean peninsula. "There is something about a repaired relationship which tugs at our heartstrings - something heart-warming about a restoration of harmony where two people have fallen out; and perhaps especially if one has badly let the other down," said Rt Rev Wilcox.

The transmission built on the Queen's visit to the church at Easter in 2015 to hand out the Maundy money. "It's a privilege to have access to people's homes," said Rev Canon Farrow. "It's probably our largest congregation ever. There's that sense of being part of something bigger."

And the BBC would be welcome to return, Rev Canon Farrow said. "It would be nice to think they'd come back to us at some point."

The broadcast can still be watched online at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09y2399 until the end of this month.