Strictly Come Dancing returned to the BBC last night (4 September), with a record 9.3 million viewers tuning in to the launch of its 14th season.

The episode which saw celebrities and dancers paired off in teams, took a 46.6% viewing share for broadcast TV, peaking at 10.1 million viewers.

The figures beat Strictly's 8.7 million viewers in 2015, which pipped The X Factor to the top spot in last year's ratings battle.

However, The Great British Bake Off, which averaged 13.6 million viewers in its launch episode on 24 August, remains the most watched show this year.

The previous top-watched show was an episode of Simon Cowell's Britain's Got Talent in April, averaging 12.5 million viewers.

Strictly's popularity undoubtedly received a boost from the host of big names joining the competition this year, including pop star Will Young and former Labour politician Ed Balls.

Viewers were quick to praise the former Labour MP on Twitter, who developed a cult-like following after he accidentally tweeted his own name in 2011.

Many claimed his dancing prowess on Saturday night's show offered the perfect antidote to the UK's turbulent political climate which has been marred by months of instability and in-fighting across the party spectrum.

Strictly's success comes in stark contrast to the dwindling popularity of one of Simon Cowell's prime-time hits, The X Factor, which suffered its lowest launch ratings in 10 years on 27 September.

The ITV launch show was watched by 6.8 million, a 34% viewing share, but had increased to 8.3 million viewers on Saturday for its third episode.

ITV denied the The X Factor was suffering and said the episode's figures are up year-on-year – the same episode last year was watched by 7.7 million.

Simon Cowell is reportedly set to sign a new deal with broadcaster ITV, worth £150m ($196m), that will see The X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent on British TV screens until 2019.

Will Young Karen Clifton Strictly Come Dancing
Strictly Come Dancing: Will Young and dance partner Karen Clifton Guy Levy/BBC