10.3m viewers tune in for first Bake Off since Channel 4 move announced
The Great British Bake Off was watched by 10.3 million viewers on Wednesday night - the best figure since this year's launch show.
The new series - the last before Bake Off heads to Channel 4 without presenters Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc - kicked off with an average of 10.4 million viewers.
But the peak figure for Wednesday night's instalment was 11.3 million, even bigger than the 11.2 million of the series debut.
Around 15 million watched as Nadiya Hussain was crowned winner in 2015.
The figures come as the head of Channel 4 promised fans of the show that Bake Off will have a "safe home" on the channel, despite an outpouring of complaints from viewers.
Jay Hunt, Channel 4's chief creative officer, sought to allay worries the hit baking competition will flounder when it leaves the BBC without its popular presenters.
Judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, mainstays of the programme since it began in 2010, are yet to confirm if they will follow.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Ms Hunt said the programme's makers will be the key ingredient in its future success, while the move will keep it on free-to-air television.
"Great British Bake Off will have a safe home," she said.
"The show of soggy bottoms and good crumb will be made by exactly the same team who have always made it.
"We love it just as it is. And for an amateur baker like me, that's a real cause for celebration."
Ms Hunt used the recent move of Formula One from the BBC to Channel 4 as an example of its "good track record on protecting and growing the shows viewers love".
The former BBC executive said Channel 4's intervention had prevented it being gobbled up by a pay-to-view television service.
"The BBC and Love Productions grew Bake Off from a quaint idea into a global hit. But when they were unable to reach agreement on future series, Bake Off risked coming off free-to-air television altogether.
"By bringing the show to 4, Love Productions have ensured it will be on a terrestrial channel for audiences to enjoy for years to come."
The controversial move was triggered by the BBC's unwillingness to pay the company behind Bake Off, Love Productions, a considerably larger sum to keep the programme.
Ms Hunt said the programme's huge popularity would provide Channel 4 with a financial boost that will help it produce the other esoteric programming it is known for.
News of Bake Off's move prompted a wave of anger from fans and a petition to keep it on the BBC has attracted almost 26,000 signatures.
As the programme returned to screens on Wednesday night, fans said the show felt "bittersweet", with viewers on Twitter speaking of their sadness and frustration.
The presenters opened the show singing a jovial ditty about the remaining bakers, before making a joke about cricket bats to mark batter week and viewers said the song proved the programme would not be the same without them.
Amy Pearson wrote: "@BBCOne you are losing that!! The best presenters ever. Who else sings an intro #GBBO", and Georgina Black tweeted: "That's just proved it won't work without Mel and Sue #GBBO."
Fan Louise Sandford tweeted: "#GBBO feels a bit bittersweet tonight..."
In a statement released earlier this week, Perkins and Giedroyc said they had " made no secret of our desire for the show to remain where it was" and were not "going with the dough".
Wednesday night's show saw 37-year-old nurse Kate Barmby ejected from the tent in batter week.