Record figures see Bodyguard become biggest TV drama of the decade

Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes star. Picture: World Productions/Des Willie
Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes star. Picture: World Productions/Des Willie
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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 six-part series, written and created by Line Of Duty’s Jed Mercurio, kicked-off on August 26, introducing us to troubled war veteran Police Sergeant David Budd (Madden) of the Met’s specialist protection branch. 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 – and so far over all.

The episode’s consolidated ratings, which includes viewers watching on catch-up, was 10.4 million, the BBC’s biggest non-World Cup audience of the year so far.

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 attracted an average of 6.6 million viewers, giving the channel a 33 per cent share, and peaked with seven million viewers.

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. The launch episode peaked with 3.9 million viewers, including those watching on ITV +1 and ITV HD.

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 to 34-year-old demographic; 1.2 million of them watched the first episode, which, the BBC claimed, made it the biggest non-soap drama of the year for this age group.

The series is proving a massive hit among online viewers and currently enjoys a 8.6/10 Internet Movie Database rating as well as a 100 per cent average audience score on website Rotten Tomatoes.

Bodyguard airs on BBC One this Sunday at 9pm.