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'Downton Abbey' season four debut sets record ratings for PBS

The ensemble cast of Downton Abbey a Masterpiece production on PBS
The ensemble cast of Downton Abbey a Masterpiece production on PBS
©Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE

The season four premiere of "Downton Abbey" was a big hit, drawing record ratings on Jan. 4, 2014, according to a press announcement emailed on Jan. 6. by PBS. The season debut, with an average of 10.2 million viewers was an improvement over the season three premiere by 22 percent.

The Masterpiece Theatre drama enchanted viewers nationwide as the Crawley family faced changes in the wake of last season’s shocking finale. "Downton Abbey" is a critically acclaimed drama that has garnered awards at the Emmys, Golden Globe and SAG Awards and the viewers are tuning in to follow life at the English country manor.

The fourth season has already aired in England, so spoilers are abound on the internet, for those who choose to search. Even though the story is available, people are tuning in to follow the high-class drama upstairs and downstairs at the English Ccuntry manor.

An average audience of 10.2 million viewers tuned in for Sunday’s premiere. (Nielsen Fast National data, 6.2 household rating. The season four premiere improved upon the average rating of the third season premiere of “Downton Abbey” by 22 percent (based on Fast Nationals, both seasons). Between 9-11 p.m., PBS tied with network CBS as the most watched network on Sunday (based on weighted metered market averages).

PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger issued a statement, saying, “As this captivating drama continues, our audiences have been eagerly awaiting this new season to see what’s next for these beloved characters. I’m so pleased that millions of viewers have returned to ‘Downton Abbey’ on their local PBS stations for what has become a post-holiday tradition.”

Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton added, “I’m delighted to see that the Crawley family’s intrigue continues to beguile our viewers. Julian Fellowes has written every word of all four seasons of ‘Downton,’ and I toss him a huge bouquet on behalf of his American fans.”

The new season will be available for free streaming on PBS station websites, the PBS Video Portal and PBS’ apps on Xbox, Roku and Apple TV for a limited time after each national broadcast.

The ensemble cast of "Downton Abbey" includes: Hugh Bonneville as Lord Robert, Earl of Grantham; Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley; Myanna Buring as Edna; Jim Carter as Mr. Carson; Brendan Coyle as John Bates; Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley; Kevin Doyle as Molesley; Charles Edwards as Michael Gregson; Joanne Froggatt as Anna; Lily James as Lady Rose McClare; Rob James-Collier as Thomas Barrow; Allen Leech as Tom Branson; Phyllis Logan as Mrs. Hughes; Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora, Countess of Grantham; Sophie McShera as Daisy; Matt Milne as Alfred Nugent; Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Patmore; David Robb as Dr. Clarkson; Maggie Smith as Lady Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham; Ed Speleers as Jimmy Kent; Cara Theobald as Ivy Stuart; and Penelope Wilton as Isobel Crawley.

“Downton Abbey” is a Carnival Films/MASTERPIECE Co-Production.