First episode of new River Monsters series attracts 3.4 million viewers

River Monsters returned to British screens with a bang – attracting millions of viewers and beating all other programmes in its timeslot bar EastEnders.

The opening episode of series five aired on ITV and attracted a peak of 3.4 million viewers, according to overnight figures released by the channel. It was the show’s biggest audience since the American Killer Catfish episode of the previous series was shown last January.

The Atomic Assassin show - which was filmed in the radioactive shadow of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor - averaged 2.8 million viewers throughout its half-hour duration. It beat the Great British Garden Revival on BBC2, Highland Emergency on Channel 5 and eclipsed Manchester United’s League Cup semi-final game with Sunderland on Sky Sports 1.

EastEnders, the only show to beat River Monsters, typically gets audiences of 7m to 9m people.

Presenter Jeremy Wade told Angling Times: “That’s fantastic. I’ve not seen the official figures but that seems significantly up on last year. I think it has picked up quite a following from people – channel hoppers, insomniacs, people looking for something to watch – stumbling across the repeats on ITV4 and becoming hooked.

“I think the popularity has come a bit later in the UK compared to some other countries, but it has benefitted from having a big back catalogue of material that people can tap into.”

He joked: “Watch out, EastEnders!”

Over the Christmas period, from December 23 to December 29, River Monsters repeats accounted for four of the top five most-watched programmes on Animal Planet.