Bryan Wright admitted assaulting his wife of almost 30 years, Lillian, at their home last month after the row over the remote control.
His own barrister told Darlington Magistrates' Court: 'He had been watching cricket all afternoon, it was an exciting match, in the final overs.
She said: 'Lillian turned the channel over when he left the room and this resulted in a verbal altercation.
'He forced her up from her seat, repeatedly swearing at her, saying "I will kill you".
Wright pleaded guilty to the assault, but disputed the prosecution's version of events.
He told police that he felt the channel-changing had been unfair, and insisted he had neither hit her with the remote control nor threatened to kill her.
The couple, who had not long got back together at the time of the assault on April 16, were now separated with no plans to reconcile.
Wright, of Darlington, was given a three-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.