Strictly Come Dancing series launch sees viewing numbers fall

The launch episode of Strictly Come Dancing was watched by an average of seven million viewers, according to overnight ratings.

This marked a drop in viewing figures from 2020’s launch which was watched by an average of 8.6 million.

Saturday night’s episode achieved a 44.7% audience share and had a peak of 7.3 million viewers, according to the broadcaster.

Strictly Come Dancing 2021
Host Tess Daly during the Strictly launch (Guy Levy/PA)

Last year’s series opener, which came during a time of unusually strong ratings amid the pandemic, achieved a lower audience share of 42.2% but a higher peak of nine million viewers.

The launch saw the 15-strong cohort of celebrity contestants paired up with their professional partners.

Great British Bake Off star John Whaite was paired with Johannes Radebe as part of the first all-male couple on the BBC One flagship programme.

Rugby player Ugo Monye was confirmed as dancing with two-time Strictly champion Oti Mabuse, who is hoping to secure her third consecutive win, while three-time Olympic champion Adam Peaty, who specialises in breaststroke, was paired with Katya Jones.

Strictly Come Dancing 2021
John Whaite was paired with Johannes Radebe (Guy Levy/PA)

EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis was partnered with Giovanni Pernice and is the first deaf contestant to appear on Strictly.

The episode also saw Anton Du Beke make his debut as a full-time judge and receive a standing ovation from the studio audience.

Last year’s winners Bill Bailey and Mabuse revisited their routine to Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang and Anne-Marie performed her single Kiss My (Uh-Oh).

On Wednesday, the BBC confirmed a professional dancer had tested positive for Covid-19 but the launch would be unaffected as it was pre-recorded.

The night before the launch, the broadcaster said in a statement that it does not “comment on speculation of somebody’s Covid vaccination status” after reports two professionals had refused the vaccine.