Planet Earth II set to be second biggest show on TV in 2016

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Planet Earth II is on course to become the second most-watched TV programme of the year, new figures show.

The BBC natural history series, which has wowed audiences with its close-up footage of animals in the wild, is attracting over 12 million viewers every week.

Planet Earth II.
Planet Earth II (BBC screenshot)

Only The Great British Bake Off has enjoyed higher average ratings so far in 2016.

The figures suggest the public has not lost its appetite for the sort of big-budget, high-profile nature documentaries the BBC has been producing for over 50 years.

It is also a reflection of the enormous appeal of the programme's narrator, Sir David Attenborough.

Sir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough (BBC)

Planet Earth II took three years to make and involved 117 filming trips to 40 countries.

BBC director-general Tony Hall last week hailed the show as "extraordinary", adding: "What could be more distinctively BBC than David Attenborough diving 1,000 feet beneath the Pacific in a submersible, or hanging in a hot air balloon high above the Alps?"

The ratings success of Planet Earth II and Bake Off, along with that of Strictly Come Dancing, means the BBC looks set to dominate this year's most popular television.

The Great British Bake Off
The Great British Bake Off (BBC/Love Productions)

In the top 40 biggest TV audiences of 2016 so far, compiled by the Press Association, a total of 30 places are currently filled by programmes broadcast on BBC1. There are just 10 entries for ITV.

Other BBC shows in the top 40 include episodes of Sherlock and Call The Midwife, plus coverage of Euro 2016 football matches.

ITV will be hoping the likes of The X Factor and I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! help the channel grab a few more places in the chart before the year is over.

All ratings figures are published by Barb.