'Downton Abbey' Enjoys Ratings Upswing, Unlikely Runner-Up Status

Super Bowl XLVI Downton Abbey Split - H 2012
Getty Images/Nick Briggs

Super Bowl XLVI Downton Abbey Split - H 2012

Downton Abbey is probably closer to a critical mass than anything that's ever come out of PBS' Masterpiece Classics franchise.

The British import, nearing the end of its stateside run's second season, has been performing well above its freshman average of 3.6 million. And this past Sunday, it was the second most-watched broadcast during its time period -- after the record-breaking Super Bowl.

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Down just a shade from its season average (roughly 4.34 million) on the biggest TV night of the year, Downton Abbey finished second place to the big game with 4.0 million between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. It topped repeats the whole of cable and the broadcast networks.

It's a number that's likely to gain significantly with DVR viewings. Live + 7 day ratings for Downton Abbey -- including DVR and online viewings and encores -- pushed its Jan. 8 season premiere up 50 percent, from 4.2 to 6.3 million viewers.

Downton Abbey hit its season high in its fourth week, bringing in 4.8 million viewers on Jan. 29 episode. It will continue on PBS through Feb. 19.

A third season is scheduled to start production in the U.K. this month.