More than 3.6m people tuned in to watch the first episode of the new series of The Apprentice on BBC Two.
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Last year's final, which saw Tim Campbell crowned The Apprentice, had 3.8 million viewers.
Meanwhile, Davina McCall's BBC One chat show lost a quarter of its audience in the space of a week.
The second episode of the show, which included guests Pierce Brosnan and presenter Patrick Kielty, was watched by 2.7m people - down from 3.5m.
The first series of The Apprentice proved a surprise hit, attracting an average of 2.8m viewers every week.
The first episode was broadcast on Wednesday night, pipping ITV1's film American Pie II in the ratings by 200,000 viewers.
A BBC spokeswoman said: "We are delighted with the success of The Apprentice, which has picked up where the last series left off in terms of ratings."
"As for Davina, the audience is down on the first week but we are pleased with the show. We are giving it time to grow."
BBC One's Crimewatch UK, which was broadcast at the same time as The Apprentice, attracted an average audience of 4.9m, according to the overnight figures.
An average of 2.5m viewers watched Brat Camp on Channel 4.