LONDON Channel 4 put on a brave face on Saturday after ratings for the ninth series of reality television programme Big Brother fell to their lowest yet.
Big Brother 9 averaged 3.2 million viewers in comparison to the 5.8 million who watched Big Brother 3, which has been the most popular series to date.
Last night's finale attracted 5.3 million viewers. A year ago the show was averaging 3.5 million viewers and the Big Brother 8 final pulled in 5.4 million viewers.
"This year's Big Brother has regularly delivered an audience of around 3 million viewers -- even after nine years on air, it is still right up there among our highest ratings programmes," said a Channel 4 statement.
"No other programme delivers us such a consistent, sizeable audience and we are incredibly pleased with its performance. We look forward to celebrating 10 years of Big Brother next year."
Big Brother 9 was won by 24-year-old trainee teacher Rachel Rice, who pocketed the 100,000 pound prize after beating bookmakers' favourite Mikey Hughes into second place.
Channel 4's contract with the production company behind the programme, Endemol, has another two years to run. A spokeswoman for the television station was unable to say when negotiations over a new deal would begin.
(Reporting by John Joseph; Editing by David Clarke)