Is XC is more popular than football (soccer)? Great Edinburgh XC draws 2 x as many tv viewers as Man U game
You'd need to compare to the total viewership for all football games on during that time, not just one game. If that was the only game, then you have a good point.
ManU vs. Reading. There was little intrigue in that game (and it was/is the round of 32).
British soccer TV is bizarre.
I'm pretty sure the United game was the only game in England on TV at that time:
And it was only on during the start of the Edinburgh XC race. By the end of the Edinburgh broadcast there were NO English games on TV despite the fact nearly every English soccer game was being played live at that time. (Fans in the US could watch two English games at this time between 4 no name teams).
The English like to encourage fans to go watch the soccer games in person so they have huge TV blackouts. Perfect time to put on another sport on TV.
And this was the FA Cup day so United wasn't even playing a top notch squad.
The X-Country was free to air, the football was on BT Sport which is a channel that you have to pay for. (It's an additional cost even if you have a full Sky Sports package, where most football is on.)
The only 'TV Blackout' is the 3:00pm Saturday afternoon slot, which is a historical thing. Was a big deal back in the day when all games were played then apart from the one life match on Sunday.