Some of the acts hoping to win Britain's Got Talent
The first show of the fourth series of Britain's Got Talent was watched by an average audience of 10.6m, according to overnight figures.
At its peak, the programme was seen by 11.5m people and captured almost half the entire television audience.
The new series gained a bigger audience than its 2009 debut, which saw off competition from Doctor Who on BBC One.
The 2009 season discovered singer Susan Boyle, who was the eventual runner-up to dance troupe Diversity.
Saturday night's show, which featured Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden back on the judging panel, saw a wide range of acts compete to advance in the competition.
X Factor judge Louis Walsh, meanwhile, appeared on the panel to cover Simon Cowell who was ill during some of the auditions screened in the first show.
The judges were impressed with 10-year-old schoolgirl Chloe Hickinbottom, who performed Vera Lynn's wartime classic The White Cliffs of Dover.
Another act going through to the next round was dancing dog Chandi and her owner Tina.
But there was also a parade of more eccentric auditionees, with puppeteer Persephone Lewin prompting Cowell to declare: "I can't do this any more, I'm 50 years old."
Part of her performance involved attempting to inflate a rubber glove with a hosepipe.