'Downton Abbey' Draws Lowest U.K. Season Premiere Ratings Since 2010

Downton Abbey Season 5 Trailer Still - H 2014

The hit drama, created by Julian Fellowes, returned for its fifth season on ITV on Sunday night

The season-five premiere of Downton Abbey drew an average audience of 8.4 million for Britain's ITV Sunday night, marking the show's lowest season debut since its first-season launch in 2010 with 7.7 million viewers.

The figure compared with the 9.5 million overnight ratings for the previous season and the 9.0 million overnight audience for the third-season opener when Shirley MacLaine's character started her showdown with Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess, according to ratings consultancy Attentional. The second season had opened with nearly 9.3 million viewers.

All figures include viewers for ITV1+1, a catch-up network that reairs the show with an hour delay. The season premiere previously screened in a London cinema in a special charity event.

The drama, created by Julian Fellowes, on Sunday night reached a peak audience of 9.2 million, ITV said. That compared with 10.5 million last year and 9.6 million the year before.

Downton Abbey broadcasts in the 9 p.m. time slot, right after Simon Cowell's The X Factor. Usually an hour long, Sunday's season-premiere episode ran longer. Later this year, ITV will air a short Downton-related film with George Clooney.

Downton Abbey had finished its fourth season on ITV1 strongly, drawing an average audience of 9.8 million. In the U.S., the show, produced by NBCUniversal's Carnival Films, has been airing on PBS since 2011 and was nominated for 12 Emmy awards, winning one in a technical category, hairstyling.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai