Saturday Night Takeaway becomes ITV’s second highest rated programme of the year as it returns with 8.1 million viewers

An average of 7.3 million viewers tuned in to the first episode of the show's seventeenth series.

Ant and Dec

Ant and Dec returned to our screens last night for a brand new series of Saturday Night Takeaway – and millions of viewers tuned in to watch the long-running entertainment show.

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An average of 7.3 million people watched the show, with a peak of 8.1 million, making it the second-highest-rated programme of the year outside news and sport, behind only The Masked Singer. The episode also had a strong showing in the 16-34 age bracket, with 1.2 million viewers tuning in from that demographic.

It continues a strong start to the year for ITV which has dominated Saturday night ratings so far in 2021 – and has been the most-watched channel on 75 per cent of Saturdays since the beginning of 2020.

Saturday Night Takeaway is now in its 17th series, having debuted on ITV back in 2002, and has consistently scored impressive ratings throughout its run thanks to the enduring appeal of the Geordie duo.

The new series kicked off without the usual studio audience due to COVID restrictions, although there was a “virtual wall” consisting of 300 viewers.

Despite that forced change, the show largely stuck to its tried and trusted format, with highlights including a performance from Gary Barlow in the End of the Show Show, and Harry and Jamie Redknapp becoming the latest victims of I’m A Celebrity… Get Out Of Me Ear.

The episode also included appearances from celebrities including Prue Leith, Jermaine Jenas and Rob Brydon in brand new segment Double Trouble, while Stephen Mulhern returned for a spectacular Ant vs Dec.

It’s a Sin star Olly Alexander appeared as Saturday Night Takeaway’s guest announcer.

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Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway continues next Saturday 27th February at 7pm on ITV. Looking for something to watch tonight? Check out our TV Guide