BBC Three has last laugh with Little Britain's 2m ratings

LONDON – BBC Three's comedy sketch show 'Little Britain' pulled in almost 2m viewers last night to give controller Stuart Murphy a much-needed boost after Patrick Barwise slammed the BBC's digital channels for having low viewing figures in a report last week.

The new six-part series of 'Little Britain', starring comedians Matt Lucas and David Walliams, averaged 1.8m at 9pm for 30 minutes -- also giving BBC Three its highest audience to date.

The previous record holder was 1.3m for a repeat of 'EastEnders' last year.

However, unlike 'EastEnders', 'Little Britain' is exactly the kind of programming that BBC Three said it wanted to feature and promote, making the figures all the more satisfying for BBC Three controller Murphy and the BBC.

The highest-rated 'Little Britain' audience on BBC Three to date was 453,000 last year and the first series only averaged 174,000.

The report into the state of the BBC's digital TV channels was commissioned by the secretary of state and was led by Professor Patrick Barwise.

It concluded that because of their low viewing figures, BBC Three and BBC Four were providing poor value for money as well as doing little to connect the BBC with viewers or drive digital take-up.

"I recommend the BBC to stop thinking of BBC Three and Four as niche channels and start treating them like mainstream channels, like BBC One and Two but smaller and more innovative," Barwise said in the report.

Elsewhere in multichannel homes, 'Stargate: Atlantis' on Sky One commanded 900,000 viewers at 9pm and ITV2 scored 522,000 for its live coverage of Liverpool v Deportivo between 7pm and 10pm.

The critically acclaimed political drama 'West Wing' on E4 could only garner 56,000 at 9pm.

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