Strictly Come Dancing viewing figures highest in three years as 9 million tune in for show's first same-sex couple

STRICTLY Come Dancing has notched up its highest ratings for three years – with a staggering 9million watching Saturday's launch show.

The launch episode of Strictly Come Dancing was watched by an average of 8.6 million viewers, with a peak of nine million viewers, a spokesman for the BBC show said.

This marks a huge increase from the 2019 series opener, which launched to an average audience of 7.8 million people.

Saturday night's episode achieved a 42.2% audience share.

It was the most watched programme across all channels on Saturday night, the spokesman added.

Last year's launch had a 44.7% share of all those watching television in the timeslot, with the audience peaking at 8.3 million.

Strictly made a big socially-distanced return on Saturday and saw a celebrity perform as part of a same-sex pairing for the first time in the programme's history.

Nicola Adams was paired with Katya Jones, while celebrities including comedian Bill Bailey, actress Caroline Quentin and former home secretary Jacqui Smith also featured.

YouTuber HRVY, Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing, EastEnders actress Maisie Smith, radio DJ Clara Amfo, former NFL player Jason Bell, musician Max George and TV presenters JJ Chalmers and Ranvir Singh are also taking part.

The programme featured pre-recorded routines from the BBC One dancing competition's professionals, as well as a group performance from this year's entire cohort of contestants.

However during the performance the couples only got within close distance of their own partners, due to coronavirus rules.

Either the professional dancer or the celebrity is living on their own for the duration of the series as they form an exclusive support bubble.

The huge ratings came despite the partnerships being leaked online the previous day.

Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas returned to the panel, however Bruno Tonioli was absent from the launch as he is in the US working on Dancing With The Stars.

The Italian will appear remotely for the results shows before he returns full-time towards the end of the series.

Strictly Come Dancing continues next Saturday on BBC One at 7.25pm.

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