Soap Wedding Ratings Beat Royal Nuptials

Prince Charles' (search) wedding to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, had as many plot twists as a soap opera, but TV ratings show it didn't compare with the real thing.

A marriage between two veteran characters on TV show "Coronation Street" (search) proved a far bigger hit with British viewers than Saturday's royal event, broadcasters said Monday.

An audience of some 12.1 million tuned in Friday night to watch Ken Barlow and Deirdre Rachid tie the knot, the ITV1 channel said. At its peak, the number of viewers hit 12.9 million.

The average audience for the royal wedding was some 7.3 million, ITV1 said, citing combined figures for that channel and the British Broadcasting Corp. Although the civil marriage inside the Guildhall in Windsor wasn't broadcast, TV cameras did cover the blessing ceremony at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

The Broadcasters' Audience Research Board Ltd. said the BBC's coverage peaked at 7.8 million and ITV1 at 2.3 million. ITV1 peaked after the main BBC channel ended its coverage.

Viewing figures for satellite and cable TV channels weren't immediately available, a spokeswoman for Sky News TV said.

"Coronation Street," which centers on the lives of ordinary working folk in northern England, has run on British TV for 45 years and regularly tops the ratings tables.

Like Charles and Camilla, "Corrie" characters Ken and Deirdre are middle-aged divorcees whose eventful romance goes back decades. It was the second time they had married each other.

However, the fictional duo escaped the numerous hiccups that plagued Charles and Camilla's wedding plans, including a change of venue, the withdrawal of the groom's mother amid rumors of a snub, national debate over the union's legality and the one-day delay.

Although Charles and Camilla's wedding was an also-ran compared with "Coronation Street," it managed a neck-and-neck finish with coverage of the Grand National horse race Saturday.

The BBC's transmission of the steeplechase, one of the biggest races on Britain's equine calendar, drew an average audience of 7.3 million. That peaked at 9.5 million during the race, the BBC said.

The race had been delayed 25 minutes to avoid conflicting with the royal blessing ceremony — which in turn had been postponed a day because of the funeral of Pope John Paul II.