I’m A Celebrity 2018 launch draws best viewing figures for 5 years as fans tune in to see Holly and Dec

Intrigue around the new temporary presenting line-up plus one of the best celebrity casts in years proved to be a ratings winner for ITV

Holly Willoughby and Declan Donnelly on I'm a Celebrity

Almost 11 million viewers tuned in to the first episode of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! 2018 on Sunday night as Holly Willoughby joined Declan Donnelly for the 18th series of ITV’s jungle adventures.

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The show’s audience peaked with 11.6 million viewers watching the 10 new celebrities (including former Doctor Who star John Barrowman) settle into camp life, according to overnight viewing figures.

The launch made I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! the most watched television programme of the year so far, beaten only by matches during the 2018 World Cup.

It is also the biggest audience I’m a Celebrity has received for an opening episode in the last five years. The 2013 series, won by Westlife singer Kian Egan but made popular thanks to the antics of Joey Essex, saw 13 million viewers tune in to the first episode.

Figures were up significantly from the 9.88 million who watched last year’s launch night debut.

The substantial audience was likely driven by viewers keen to see how temporary presenting pair Holly and Dec would perform, and further added to by a strong celebrity line-up.

Ant McPartlin, 43, announced he would be stepping down from hosting duties for I’m a Celebrity 2018 after he was fined £83,000 for drink driving in March this year.

Ant and Dec on I'm a Celebrity
Ant and Dec on I’m a Celebrity

Instead, regular co-host Declan Donnelly was joined by close friend and This Morning host Holly Willoughby, who announced she would be temporarily taking the reins from McPartlin in August.

While viewers admitted they missed seeing regular duo Ant and Dec together, Willoughby, 37, soon settled into the role, bouncing off Donnelly as the show progressed.

The pair couldn’t resist making a cheeky joke about McPartlin’s absence, with Donnelly telling viewers at home, “”The more eagle-eyed viewers among you will have already noticed a big change to the show.

“Yes, one of the most gorgeous presenters on British television has been joined by Holly Willoughby.”

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I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! continues tonight at 9pm on ITV


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