The final of Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack drew just 644,000 viewers – a fraction of the 3.4 million viewers who tuned into the show’s launch night on Channel 4 and E4 on January 3.

Channel 4, keen to distance itself from last year’s race row, took a gamble by giving the reality show a new format and moving it exclusively to digital channel E4.

But it failed to capture the public’s imagination with just over half a million tuning in to see 20-year-old student campaigner John Loughton scoop the £50,000 prize.

The low-key finale pulled in 644,000 viewers on E4, representing a 3.1 per cent share of viewing in multi-channel homes. A further 81,000 watched later on catch-up channel E4+1.

By contrast, last year’s Celebrity Big Brother final – won by Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty – had an audience of 5.8 million.

But a Channel 4 spokesman still hailed Celebrity Hijack as a success.

“Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack has been one of the most successful original commissions for E4,” the spokesman said.

“It is the first time one of the terrestrial channels has stripped a reality show across the schedule of a digital sister channel, without the prop of a core channel show to drive audience. In this context, the ratings performance is strong.”

This year’s show saw a number of celebrities ‘hijack’ the house by taking on the role of Big Brother. The 12 housemates were chosen for their special talents.

During the show the housemates made frequent reference to the ‘millions’ of viewers watching their every move, believing they would emerge to lives of fame and fortune.