I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! 2014 launches with lowest ratings for five years

The ITV reality series returned with an audience of 10.3 million, making it the biggest programme of Sunday night but the show's least-watched launch since 2009

Ant, Dec, ten (more or less) famous faces and thousands of reptiles, insects and other assorted creepy crawlies returned to ITV last night for the new 14th series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, and so did the viewers – just not in quite the same numbers as in previous years…

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The launch of the long-running reality show was watched by the smallest audience for an opening instalment in five years, according to figures provided by UK TV Ratings.

An average of 10.3 million viewers – a bush-whacking 42.2% share – between 9pm and 10:40pm still made it the biggest programme of Sunday night, with the Strictly Come Dancing results show pulling in just over 10 million (40.8%) earlier in the evening on BBC1.

But figures for the I’m A Celeb… 2014 opener didn’t compare with the 11.9 million (47.9%) who tuned in for last year’s first episode and were lower, too, than all of the previous three years, which ranged from 10.6m to 11.8m.

In fact, it’s not since series nine in 2009 that the show has kicked off with so few viewers, when it drew just 9.8m – although its audience share was lower in 2010 at 38.0%.

This year’s opening episode saw the first ten campmates split into two groups, with half imprisoned in the ‘Celebrity Slammer’. Former Superbike world champion Carl “Foggy” Fogerty was let out of jail after being chosen by the ‘free’ campmates to tackle the first of the show’s dreaded Bushtucker Trials.

Having spent a full 12 minutes in a drain with 40 snakes, he earned a maximum reward of six stars, using them to obtain food for himself and his new celebrity friends rather than the original five who remained imprisoned with just porridge to sustain them.

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Inmate Craig Charles seemed less than impressed with the news and viewers may well be tuning this week to find out whether “Foggy” faces a backlash when the two teams are reunited…