The highly-anticipated season 3 premiere of "Downton Abbey" in the U.S. drew 7.9 million viewers on Sunday, January 6, according to Nielsen's preliminary ratings. The number "quadrupled the average PBS primetime rating and exceeded the average rating of the second season premiere of 'Downton Abbey' by 96 percent."
The second season kicked off with 4.2 million viewers in January 2012 and wrapped up with 5.4 million viewers in February the same year. It "became the most-watched series in Masterpiece history."
" 'Downton Abbey' continues to enthrall audiences nationwide, and this season is especially riveting with the addition of Shirley MacLaine to the cast and the lively interaction between her and Maggie Smith," PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger says in a statement following the show's latest achievement.
She adds, "I'm so pleased that audiences have returned to Downton Abbey on their local stations to continue to enjoy some of the best drama on television." Masterpiece Classic's executive producer Rebecca Eaton also gushes, "I'm thrilled to see so many viewers return to the Crawley family's delicious drama and intrigue."
PBS additionally says that the Julian Fellowes-created series garnered nearly 100,000 tweets during the season 3 premiere. According to SocialGuide Intelligence, the period drama was a worldwide trending topic at that time.