Chris Evans’ reboot of Top Gear appears to have hit the buffers with the second instalment recording an overnight rating of just 2.8 million viewers.
The figure – a 14% share of the total available audience – is likely to climb once catch-up views are taken into account, but it is still over 1.5 million viewers down on the 4.4 million who watched the opening episode last week.
Last night’s Top Gear was competing with Antiques Roadshow on BBC1 at 8pm, which was watched by an average of 4.1 million viewers, a share of 21.2%.
Celebrity football match Soccer Aid, which aired from 6pm to 10pm, averaged 2.7 million viewers over the course of the four-hour programme on ITV, with a further 1.04 million watching on ITV HD.
This gave the show an overall share of 22%. However, during the hour it was competing with Top Gear, Soccer Aid averaged more than 3 million viewers from 8-9pm on ITV alone, rating at 3.4 million viewers between 8.30pm and 8.45pm.
At 8pm, 1.1 million viewers were tuned into Penelope Keith at Her Majesty’s Service on Channel 4.
In 2015, Top Gear episode two averaged 5.34 million, an increase on its first episode rating of 5.28 million.
The BBC declined to comment on the figures, but one senior BBC source described them as a “setback” for the show.
“Yes, the hot weather didn’t help but this is still a big ouch for Top Gear, but it will probably consolidate up by around 1 million we reckon,” said the source.
Following the latest setback, Evans sought to put a positive spin on the overnight figures suggesting that viewing habits had changed and suggesting that the second episode would add many more viewers to the final figure once the consolidated ratings came in:
The way Top Gear is being viewed is repositioning the way television is consumed. Last week 9 millions viewers. This week we shall see.
When he launched the show, Evans set a benchmark of five million viewers for the opening episode of the show which saw him and a roster of presenters including Matt LeBlanc and Sabine Schmitz take over presenting duties from Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
“If we had to guess about the number of viewers we are going to get on Sunday night, you have got to say you would be disappointed if it was under five million,” Evans told The Guardian before the launch of the new series. “Five million-plus would be great, after that it doesn’t matter.”
Despite missing this target, Evans robustly defended the ratings for the first episode in a series of tweets.
The new Top Gear is a hit. OFFICIALLY. 23 % audience share. 12% MORE than the opening episode of the last series. These are the FACTS.
However, the BBC’s own system of assessing viewers appreciation reportedly rated it the worst programme in its first weekend.
According to the Telegraph, Top Gear recorded “catastrophic” viewer feedback in the BBC’s Appreciation Index [AI], which gathers the responses of 5,000 viewers and asks them to rate a show out of 100. The average score for BBC2 shows is around 82; Top Gear recorded 60 out of 100.
The figure, which assesses the programme purely in terms of quality, was the lowest for any programme on any terrestrial programme in the launch weekend.
In addition, the Telegraph reported that the BBC received 370 complaints about the relaunch.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news