'Downton Abbey' Season Three U.K. Audience up 3 Percent Including Delayed Viewing

True Love Blooms at Last

Having at last given in to each other's love, the show's romantic ingenues -- Matthew (Dan Stevens) and Mary (Michelle Dockery) -- will at last marry. The two then disagree on whether they should stay at Downton Abbey or flee for the big city.

UPDATED: Adding DVR and other viewership over the first seven days to live broadcast ratings boosts the show's audience above the levels recorded last season.

LONDON - Downton Abbey has averaged slightly more viewers for its first four episodes of its third season on U.K. commercial network ITV1 than last season when adding non-live viewership over the first seven days.

Consolidated viewer figures for ITV1 -including live ratings, viewership on ITV HD, catch-up network ITV1+1, which repeats shows with a one-hour delay, and recorded viewing on DVRs such as BSkyB's Sky Plus over the first seven days after the live broadcast - are up about 3 percent, according to ratings data. The show is also drawing solid viewing for its Sunday afternoon repeats.

Viewership on that basis is up about 25 percent over the first season of the costume drama.

A recent episode of Downton Abbey was the third-most viewed in the U.K. ever in the overnight ratings, but other episodes this season have been down from last year in the overnights.

“Audiences watch television in so many ways that overnight ratings don’t give the accurate picture," said Gareth Neame, executive producer of Downton Abbey and managing director of NBCUniversal's British TV production firm Carnival Films. "Consolidated viewing figures really tell the story. Downton [season three] has brought in 11-12 million viewers with 40 percent share of audience in its first month, which means another 2 million viewers are watching Downton outside of its initial broadcast.”

Figures from British ratings monitor BARB show 11.4 million consolidated viewers for the drama's first episode of the current season, which will air in the U.S. on PBS starting in January. That compared with an average audience of around 9 million reported in the overnight ratings, down 300,000 viewers from the first episode of the 2011 season.

The second episode reached 12.1 million viewers over a seven-day period, compared with 8.4 million overnight viewers, the third 12 million, compared with 9.6 million overnight viewers, and the fourth 11.8 million, compared with 9.8 million overnight viewers.

Sunday night's latest episode of the hit show reached a peak audience of 10.7 million and an average viewership of 10.1 million when including the audience on ITV1+1.

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