The absence of Amy Childs certainly didn’t put off fans of fake tans and fast cars last night, as a bumper average audience of 1.55 million viewers tuned in to see the return of The Only Way Is Essex on ITV2, a new record for the show.
The huge audience made up 9.3 per cent of all those watching British television between 10:15pm and 11pm and almost beat ITV1’s That Sunday Night Show, which scored 1.94m (a 10.4 per cent share) in the same slot.
A further 177,000 viewers tuned in to watch the late-night repeat of TOWIE between 1:15am and 2am.
One of the first “constructed” formats to emerge in the latest reality boom in British TV, The Only Way Is Essex has consistently picked up viewers since it first hit our screens in the autumn of 2010. The first series ended with around 700,000 viewers, a figure that rose to over a million to watch the finale of series two.
And it seems the viewers are sticking with the working-class heroes over the toffs for the foreseeable future. Last week E4’s upmarket version of the show, Made in Chelsea, could only manage 370,000 viewers for its second series opener.
TOWIE (as it’s affectionately known) certainly wouldn’t have been hurt in the overnights by a good deal of cross promotion from its ITV stablemates on a big night for the network courtesy of X Factor and Downton.
And with “Essex” continuing to perform well online for ITV, and an obvious continued interest in the show from a loyal fan base, surely it’s only a matter of time before the rumours come true and the programme turns into an ongoing soap, 52 weeks a year.
Angela Jain, ITV’s Director of Digital Channels and Acquisitions, said: “There’s been huge anticipation ahead of the third series of The Only Way Is Essex and for the show to return in such rude health tops an amazing year for everyone involved with TOWIE. It also caps a fantastic long weekend for ITV2 with Celebrity Juice, The X Factor USA and The Xtra Factor helping the channel break the one million mark six times in just four days.”