The premiere pulled in 194,000 (1.2%) for the digital channel at 10pm on Friday. The figure represents a significant decline on the 543,000 (3.4%) audience who tuned in for the premiere of season two on Sunday, July 6 last year.
Dexter was the ninth most-watched multichannel programme in the hour, behind CSI, with 306k (1.9%) for Five USA, ITV2's rerun of Katie & Peter: Stateside, seen by 399k (2.5%), and Living's Boston Legal, with 204k (1.3%).
The return of Have I Got News For You brought in 5.64m (25%) to BBC One at 9pm, after which the remake of Reggie Perrin - starring Martin Clunes in the titular role - made a strong start with 5.03m (22.3%).
Hell's Kitchen was second in the 9pm hour with a decent 4.03m (17.9%) and on Five, NCIS notched up 2.08m (9.2%). Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares USA claimed 1.78m (7.9%) for Channel 4, with a further 465k (2.8%) watching on Channel 4+1, and new BBC Two documentary English Heritage launched to 1.77m (7.9%).
Earlier, BBC Two's Gardeners' World was of interest to 2.15m (10.2%) in the 8pm hour and Channel 4's A Place In The Sun: Home Or Away took 1.07m (5.1%). Five's Police Interceptors appealed to 909k (4.3%).
A Better Life Abroad?: Tonight put in 3.16m (15.1%) for ITV1 at 8pm, and at 8.30pm, a rerun of Total Wipeout delivered 2.65m (12.4%) for BBC One.
Overall, BBC One took a marginal lead in primetime with an average share of 22.5% to ITV1's 22.3%. BBC Two was third with 7.6%, followed by Channel 4 with 6.2% (+1: 1.1%) and Five with 5.1%.
Ratings data supplied by Attentional