The glossy drama began with 4.8m (18.6%) and held a largely steady audience over 45-minutes. The viewers rose to 5.3m (22.5%) in the final 15-minutes.
The series opener was down by 500,000 viewers on the respective shows of the past two series. The very first episode 19 January 2006 interested 5.4m (23.8%) with the second series launching on 15 February last year with a similar 5.4m (24.6%).
Both the first and second series averaged more than 5m with the 2006 series picking up 5.4m (23.5%) and the second run managed 5.7m (25.6%).
The drama series has only once got a lower audience with the episode on 23 February 2006 only gaining 4.5m (19.1%).
Despite the relatively poor performance of the drama the show was effectively in line with BBC1's slot average for last year of 5m (21.4%).
Last night's Hotel Babylon faced an uphill struggle against tough competition from ITV1 in the form of live Champions League football action.
Liverpool took on Inter Milan with the match, from 7.45pm, averaging an impressive 7m (27.4%) with the audience peaking at 8m (31%) at 9.30pm as the English side scored a last-minute goal to win 2-0.
The entire ITV1 coverage, between 7.30pm and 10pm, averaged 6.1m (24.3%).
Before Hotel Babylon started, BBC1 initially put up some strong competition against the football with Holby City at 8pm on 6.2m (24.1%). EastEnders at 7.30pm gained 9m (37.4%).
The One and only
Putting on an impressive performance at 7pm was BBC1's The One Show with its highest audience ever.
The 30-minute magazine show drew a sizeable 5.7m (26%).
The previous most watched edition of the show was on 31 January this year when 5.2m (23.8%) tuned in. The programme has only manged to break the 5m mark on five other occasions since it launched on 14 August 2006 with 3.4m (18.9%).
The One Show was still some way behind the terrestrial leader ITV1 at the time with its soap Emmerdale appealing to 7.1m (32.7%) in the same slot.
Shock and awe
Channel 4's Bodyshock strand was back last night at 9pm with The Girl with Eight Limbs on a strong 3.2m (12%) over an hour. A further 334,000 people saw the same documentary on C4+1.
The programme just managed to grab the advantage over Five's popular CSI: Crime Scene Investigation which picked up 3.1m (12.2%).
BBC2's science strand Horizon was some way off the pace with 2.1m (8.4%) for 50-minutes.
BBC2 was a much more popular attraction at 8.30pm with Masterchef once again breaking the 3m mark with 3.1m (12%). C4's Supersize vs Superskinny took 2.4m (9.4%) over the hour from 8pm. Five's The Bearman, also at 8pm had just 950,000 (3.7%).
There were some mixed fortunes for Five's new-look news programmes, presented by Natasha Kaplinsky, yesterday.
The 5pm bulletin managed 799,000 (6.2%), down from the 957,000 (7.5%) that watched the first outing of the new format on Monday (18 February).
The 7pm outing had 447,000 (2%), up marginally on Monday when it attracted 431,000 (1.9%).
Over in multichannel homes, Lily Allen had slightly better fortune overall for the second outing of her chat show on BBC3.
Last night's Lily Allen and Friends picked up 262,000 (2.08%), a marginal rise of 7,000 viewers on her debut last week in a 10.30pm slot. The show was still 44% down on the slot average of 466,000 (3.79%).
The second edition was also less appealing to the channel's new target audience of 16-34-year-olds.
48% of the show's audience were from this age group last week but last night this fell to 36.2%.
All hours shares for Tuesday 19 February 2008: BBC1 - 22.3%, ITV1 - 19.1%, C4 - 9.3%, BBC2 - 8.1%, Five - 6.6%, multichannel - 34.1%.
Peaktime (6pm to 10.30pm) shares: BBC1 - 25.5%, ITV1 - 23.1%, C4 - 9.7%, BBC2 - 9%, Five - 6.1%, multichannel - 26.1%.