Saturday Night Takeaway saw MILLIONS of viewers desert

The signs pointing to Ant and Dec’s exit from Saturday Night Takeaway: Long-running show saw MILLIONS of viewers desert its latest series as ratings hit an all-time low

Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly shocked fans on Thursday when they announced they will be quitting Saturday Night Takeaway.

The Geordie presenting duo, both 47, confirmed that the show will be taking a break after its 20th series in 2024, saying they need to ‘catch their breath’.

And in the weeks before their announcement, their ITV comedy show saw ratings hit an all-time low as millions of viewers deserted the newly-released 19th series.

Audience figures across the series hit as low as an average of 4.1million, while its launch episode also hit an all-time low compared to its previous years.

Its launch episode, which aired on February 25, were at their lowest since the variety show launched on ITV in 2002, with an average audience of just 4.9million.

Two years ago, 7.3million viewers tuned in for the series’ opening episode, meaning the show have lost a third of their audience.

Their viewership then fell to 5.7million in 2022, with Saturday Night Takeaway once again seeing a steady decline in its audience numbers. 

Marking disappointment for the beloved show, the figures dropped a further 500,000 for the 19th series’ second episode, which aired on March 4 this year.

Despite high-profile celebrity talent including David Tennant, Tom Grennan and Mimi Webb featuring across the two episodes, it failed to secure the same viewership.

The trend continued later in the series as its third episode on March 11, which featured Claudia Winkleman, draw in an average of 4.5million viewers and a peak of 5.5million.

On March 18, an average of 4.3million people tuned in for the Saturday night show, with viewers peaking at 4.9million. 

Its fifth episode, which aired on March 25, raked in an average of a mere 4.1million average viewers, peaking at 4.7million.

Meanwhile, the following week saw a slight increase – but still remained below the opening episode and its previous records – as an average of 4.6million viewers turned in.

Shock: And in the weeks before their announcement, their show saw ratings hit an all-time low as millions of viewers deserted the 19th series (Ant and Dec are pictured in 2006)

Its final episode, which aired on April 8, saw just 4.3million average viewers watching the jam-packed show, peaking at 5million.

At Saturday Night Takeaway’s peak popularity, in March 2020, it drew in 11.1million viewers.

The show’s combination of live, high energy, feel good fun has seen the format achieve multiple BAFTA and National Television Awards since launching in 2002.

Kevin Lygo, ITV Managing Director, Media and Entertainment, said: ‘When you think of Saturday night television you think of Saturday Night Takeaway.

‘Over 20 series the show has become a cultural phenomenon, and while we eagerly anticipate what Ant & Dec have up their sleeves for the 2024 series, we completely understand their desire to take a pause, take stock, and think about what the next incarnation of the show might look like.’

In a video posted to Twitter on Thursday evening, Ant said: ‘Hi everyone, we’ve got some news for you. Next year, in 2024, it will be our 20th series of Saturday Night Takeaway and we’ve got some very exciting new items.’

ITV insiders have been left stunned at the loss, with some blaming ‘fatigue and a tired format’, the Daily Mail reported at the time.

It comes as Ant and Dec sensationally quit Saturday Night Takeaway this week ahead of their 20th series, shocking their fans across the nation.

The pair will continue their exclusive working relationship with ITV, hosting hit shows including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, Britain’s Got Talent and Limitless Win, all of which air across ITV1 and ITVX.

Ant said: ‘We love making Saturday Night Takeaway, but reaching the milestone of 20 series seemed like the perfect time to pause for a little while and catch our breath.’ 

Dec added: ‘We still have a momentous 20th series to look forward to first so we will do our best to go out (for now) with a bang in 2024!’

Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, produced by Lifted Entertainment (part of ITV Studios) and Mitre Studios, will return next year for its 20th series.

The series has spawned numerous iconic segments, including Win the Ads, Undercover, Get Out Of Me Ear, The End of Show Show and the Happiest Minute of the Week.