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Strictly Come Dancing launch episode sees ratings dip

Strictly Come Dancing )(Kieron McCarron/BBC/PA)
Strictly Come Dancing )(Kieron McCarron/BBC/PA)

The new series of Strictly Come Dancing launched to an average of 7.8 million viewers, according to overnight ratings.

This gave BBC One a 44.7% share of all those watching television in the timeslot, with the audience peaking at 8.3 million, the BBC said.

This marks a dips in the ratings compared with the launch show last year, when it debuted to an average audience of 8.1 million, peaking at 8.5 million, but a growth in the share, up from 40.9% last year.

Strictly Come Dancing 2019
Strictly Come Dancing (Kieron McCarron/BBC/PA)

On ITV, Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions drew an average of just under 4.9 million, peaking at 5.6 million, and an audience share of 30.3%.

ITV figures include those watching on +1 and HD.

The launch episode of Strictly saw the celebrity contestants learn who their professional partners will be.

Anton Du Beke joked that he might have a chance of lifting the glitterball trophy after discovering he will be partnered with EastEnders actress Emma Barton.

The veteran ballroom dancer, 53, has been on the show since its first series but has never won.

He has often been paired with the contest’s older, and sometimes less nimble, female stars, including Ann Widdecombe and Susannah Constantine.

Strictly Come Dancing 2019
Emma Barton and Anton Du Beke (Kieron McCarron/BBC/PA)

After Tess Daly announced the pairing, he and Barton hugged, with Du Beke joking: “So this is what it feels like … Book me in until Christmas.”

Talking to Claudia Winkleman, an overjoyed Du Beke added: “I’d just like to say to all the other ladies on the show: I apologise, I know it seemed a bit of an over-reaction, but if you’ve been through what I’ve been through … I’ve gone all hot.”

The 17th series of the BBC One dancing programme launched with 15 celebrities from the worlds of sport, television and comedy appearing in the pre-recorded episode.

In a shock twist, reigning champion Kevin Clifton, who won last year with Stacey Dooley, was partnered with TV personality Anneka Rice, the oldest star on the roster this year at 60.

Former Coronation Street star Catherine Tyldesley was paired with South African professional dancer Johannes Radebe, while Neil Jones secured his first celebrity partner in former England and Arsenal footballer Alex Scott.

Earlier in the evening, Neil and Katya Jones, who last month announced they are splitting up after six years of marriage and 11 years together, danced together on a podium during the second group performance of the night.

Their split came nearly a year after Katya was pictured kissing her former Strictly dance partner, Seann Walsh, although they did not cite the comedian in their reasons for the break-up.

Strictly Come Dancing 2019
James Cracknell and Luba Mushtuk (Kieron McCarron/BBC/PA)

Documentary-maker Dooley also returned to the show to dance a fiery paso doble with Clifton, who is now her boyfriend.

Last year’s series was Clifton’s first after splitting from his wife, Karen Hauer, while Dooley was in a relationship with Sam Tucknott at the time.

Speaking after the performance, Dooley said: “That was so exhausting. I’m no good now…”

Asked if she has any advice for the new contestants, she said: “Just enjoy it, don’t take it too seriously, put the hours in, just do your best.”

Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Shirley Ballas returned as judges, this year joined by newcomer Motsi Mabuse.

Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing featured in the launch episode and learned he was due to dance with Oti Mabuse.

However, he has since had to pull out after injuring himself and will be replaced by Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher.

The live episodes of Strictly Come Dancing will begin on September 21.