Strictly Come Dancing launched with 7million viewers on Saturday, the lowest audience since the series introduced a standalone “pairing up” show back in 2010.

It fell way behind last year's opener – delayed because of Covid - which aired in October and pulled in 8.6million viewers, the show's highest launch since 2017 (8.8m) and up 800,000 on the 2019 audience of 7.8million.

This weekend, the show peaked with 7.3million, as the contestants were shown meeting their professional partners in pre-recorded films.

The standalone launch episodes were introduced for the eighth series of Strictly, in 2010. They traditionally involve a red carpet entrance, lots of shrieking and hugging from the contestants and pros as they are introduced in the studio, and also a group dance.

Sara Davies and Aljaž Škorjanec will compete together on this year's Strictly (

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BBC)
Ugo Monye is dancing with reigning champion Oti Mabuse (

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BBC)

The first one, 11 years ago, pulled in 8.7million viewers.

This weekend's disappointing figures were put down to the warm weather yesterday. One source said: “Lots of people had been out and about enjoying the early autumn sunshine and will probably watch on catch-up today.

Nadiya Bychkova and Dan Walker are competing in this year's series (

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BBC)
John Whaite and Johannes Radebe are making history as the first male same-sex couple (

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BBC)

“The ratings are sure to pick up once the live shows start next weekend, and viewers get to see whether the celebs can actually dance – or not.”

While the launch show may have been at a low, the series still has time to make a comeback with the competition officially kicking off next week.

Two couples have made history on the show this year - with the first same-sex couple, John Whaite and Johannes Radebe, and introduction of the first ever deaf participant, Eastenders’ Rose Ayling-Ellis.

Rose Ayling-Ellis is the first deaf contestant in Strictly history (

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Will McFly's Tom Fletcher take home the glitterball with Amy Dowden? (

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It’s also the first year with Anton Du Beke as an official judge, while pro Janette Manrara is stepping away from the dancefloor after seven years and making her debut as the new It Takes Two presenter.

In order to secure the show and keep it Covid safe, a number of adjustments have been put in place for the cast and crew.

This includes pre-recording all professional dance routines - which open each show - and limiting audience numbers.

Strictly Come Dancing 2021 has officially kicked off (

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BBC)

However, there’s already been trouble with one of the pros testing positive for coronavirus.

A BBC spokesperson told The Mirror: "A professional dancer has tested positive for COVID-19 however this didn’t affect recording of the launch show which airs this Saturday.

"We are following government guidelines to ensure the safety of all on the show.”

Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturday night on BBC One.

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