Terror thriller Bodyguard has become the biggest new drama on British television in more than a decade, the BBC has said.
The BBC One series – starring Keeley Hawes as the Home Secretary and Scots actor Richard Madden as the officer assigned to protect her – has achieved consolidated viewing figures of 10.4 million for its first episode.
This is the highest launch figure for any new drama across all UK channels since Lewis in 2006, the corporation said.
The series, written and created by Line Of Duty’s Jed Mercurio, kicked off on 26 August, when it scored the highest overnight audience for a drama launch this year by more than one million viewers.
It drew an average overnight rating of 6.7 million and an audience share of 35 per cent, the BBC said, and peaked with 6.9 million viewers. On BBC iPlayer, the show has broken drama debut records – with episode one getting 3.6 million requests in its first seven days.
It also defeated ITV’s lavish period drama Vanity Fair in a Sunday night ratings battle when its third episode went head-to-head with the launch of the adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel, starring Olivia Cooke as Becky Sharp.
The third episode of Bodyguard attracted an average of 6.6 million viewers, giving the channel a 33 per cent share, and peaked with seven million viewers.
It was the BBC’s biggest non-World Cup audience of this year so far. The first episode of Vanity Fair also aired at 9pm and drew an average of 2.9 million viewers and a 15 per cent share, peaking with 3.9 million viewers.
Mercurio said: “The success of Bodyguard is a tribute to the magnetism of our two leads, Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes.
“I’m exceedingly grateful to World Productions and to the BBC who have supported the project throughout production, and to the viewers who’ve responded with such enthusiasm.”
Charlotte Moore, director of BBC content, added: “I’m thrilled with the response to BBC One’s new Sunday night drama Bodyguard, the figures are extraordinary and all credit to the mastermind creator and writer Jed Mercurio who is surprising the audience at every turn.”
The broadcaster has also pointed to Bodyguard’s strong performance with the “hard-to-reach” 16-34-year-old demographic.
A total of 1.2 million of them watched the first episode of the series, which, the BBC claimed, made it the biggest non-soap drama of the year for this age group.
Bodyguard continues on BBC One this Sunday at 9pm.