Downton Abbey Season 4 opener watched by more than 10 million in U.S.

By Frances Perraudin, The Guardian
Tuesday, January 7, 2014 7:34 EDT
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Launch episode of series four of British drama watched by an average of 10.2 million, up by 22% on third run’s premiere

US viewers’ love affair with Downton Abbey continues, with the fourth series of the period drama launching to a record audience of more than 10 million.

Downton attracted an average of 10.2 million viewers over the two-hour episode on PBS, the US public service broadcasting channel, on Sunday night.

Julian Fellowes’ portrayal of early 20th-century British aristocratic life has been a huge success with American audiences. Series three of the drama proved the most successful in PBS’s history, with a cumulative audience reach of 24 million viewers across the whole season.

US ratings were up 22% on the series three premiere in January 2013, which attracted 7.9 million viewers. The series three finale had 8.2 million Americans tuning in.

In September last year, series four had its most successful British debut with 9.5 million viewers on ITV.

The drama’s success with US audiences has prompted questions about whether it should be broadcast closer to the time it’s shown in the UK, in a reversal of the usual debate among British viewers about having to wait for American shows to be transmitted here. Americans won’t see the show’s Christmas episode until March this year.

Downton Abbey, made by Carnival, a subsidiary of NBC Universal, has been commissioned for a fifth series, but Fellowes hinted in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal that the next series could be its last.

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