ITV scores 13m viewers for I'm A Celebrity... finale

LONDON - Nearly 13m people tuned in to ITV1 last night to watch former England cricketer Phil Tufnell triumph in the reality gameshow 'I'm A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here'.

At its peak the show, which has been averaging an audience of over 10m, pulled in 12.9m viewers, burying BBC2's launch of a new sitcom by Royle Family co-creator Craig Cash.

A total of 2.5m votes were cast during the evening's polling. Hertfordshire-born Tufnell, already known to viewers for his appearances on television sports quiz shows, was crowned during the closing ceremony by 2002 runner up Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Tony Blackburn was the surprise winner last year.

Last night's viewers watched him beat runners up footballer John Fashanu and Changing Rooms star Linda Barker after eating a live beetle, a handful of ants, meal worms and a moth pupa. Tufnell's bravery in the face of bugs gave lie to his claims that he had never intended to win and had merely "turned up for a bit of a kip for two weeks".

According to the latest Broadcast Audience Research Board (Barb) figures, the show helped ITV1 clinch the largest share of 'all hours' ratings for the first time since August 2001, when the traditionally dominant channel was overtaken by BBC1.

Barb figures show ITV1 averaged a 24.5% audience share compared with BBC1's 23.9% for the three week period ending May 4. 'I'm A Celebrity…' averaged a 36% share in its first week, with 8.7m viewers, compared to 6.9m last year. Other ratings winners for the commercial channel included a documentary about the cheating 'Who Wants to Be A Millionaire' contestant major Charles Ingram.

Coverage of I'm a Celebrity... also helped the broadcaster's digital channel ITV2 regularly pass the 1m viewers mark with its late night coverage. ITV2's coverage drew 1.008m viewers last night, a 10.3% share of the audience.

The show, hosted by Mark Durden-Smith and Palmer-Tomkinson throughout the duration of the challenge, pulled in an average of 700,000 viewers and twice passed the 1m mark.

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