Viewers clearly chose entertainment over electioneering according to early figures for Monday night's TV audiences

Almost three times as many Brits watched a knife-throwing couple terrify Simon Cowell than saw Jeremy Paxman’s TV grilling of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, according to initial ratings for Monday night’s television.

A combined audience of 2.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the leaders in their first live TV audience Q&A, billed as The Battle For No 10, compared to 8.5m for ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent‘s first live semi-final.

BGT screened for 90 minutes between 7.30pm and 9pm while the joint Sky News and Channel 4 May v Corbyn Live event started an hour later between 8.30 and 10pm.

Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn (Jonathan Brady/PA)

 

Coronation Street, which screened for half an hour from 9pm, was watched by 7.3m viewers.

The political debate peaked at 3.3m and a 15% share at 9.30pm, with an average audience of 415,000 on Sky News.

A live-stream attracted almost 190,000 viewers on Sky News’ Facebook feed and almost 50,000 on YouTube.

A similar format between then-front runners David Cameron and Ed Miliband achieved an average of 2.9m in a slightly later time slot during the 2015 general election campaign.

A peak of 9.6m ITV viewers watched magical duo DNA and teen singer Kyle Tomlinson make it through to the Britain’s Got Talent final in the first knockout round at the expense of the daring Tyrone and Mina and their passionate, but hair-raising knife-throwing act.

The programme was the most-watched show on TV on Monday night with an average share of 38% while the results announcement at 9.30pm was viewed by 6.5m people.

The figures for ITV include viewers of the ITV+1 and ITV HD channels.

Ratings could increase on the debate once catch-up audiences are considered.