17/09/2012 09:18 BST | Updated 17/09/2012 09:19 BST

'Strictly Come Dancing' Launch Receives Highest Ratings In 3 Years

Strictly Come Dancing had its biggest launch for three years as it returned to BBC1 on Saturday night.

The first show in the series - in which viewers saw contestants such as Victoria Pendleton and Jerry Hall teamed up with their professional partners - was seen by an average of eight million viewers.

There was also a resurgence for ITV1's The X Factor on Saturday after weeks of disappointing ratings, although the programme is still more than two million down on last year's figure at this stage of the contest.

bruce forsyth

Strictly saw its audience peak at 9.8 million, but had an average of eight million viewers.

It was the show's biggest series debut since 2009 when it pulled in 8.4 million, although the programme was scheduled differently then and started with a Friday show.

The show is usually locked in a battle with X Factor each year, although the two shows avoided going head-to-head on Saturday night.

The X Factor has struggled to match last year's audiences, with last Sunday's programme recording the lowest audience for five years as it slipped below eight million viewers.

However, Saturday night's audition show saw the audience rally to give the highest ratings of this series with an average nine million tuning in, including viewers who were watching on ITV's +1 channel.

It is still way down on the corresponding show from 2011 which had 11.1 million viewers.

Strictly - which also numbers Fern Britton, Denise Van Outen and Johnny Ball among its contestants - returns in three weeks to give the hopefuls a chance for intensive rehearsals before the contest proper begins.

Pictures from the glamorous launch night here...

Strictly Come Dancing Launch Show