EXCLUSIVE: 'Downton Abbey': No Plans to End After Series 3

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Executive Producer Gareth Neame tells THR the hit show can "run and run."

LONDON - NBC Universal has dismissed suggestions that its British hit ITV1 period drama Downton Abbey will end after three series, saying that the hit Sunday night show wants to go on for many years to come.

Executive producer and MD of U.K. production for NBC Universal International TV Gareth Neame told the Hollywood Reporter there was “no reason” that the show would not continue, as long as viewers showed the same appetite for it and said it continued to grip audiences.

"The show's impact has been greater than anyone could have ever imagined.  When Downton was originally conceived, it was mapped out across three series,” said Neame, who launched the show through Carnival Films, which has since been acquired by NBC Universal.

“But with ratings continuing to reach 11.4 million viewers, our expectations have obviously changed and there is no reason why the show won't run and run, as long as there is still an audience for it, Neame added. Downton became a huge hit after its first season clash has continued to average an audience of over 11 million viewers per episode in the second series - which takes up the life of the Grantham clan and their household staff are plunged into the grief and uncertainties of the First World War.

The period piece, which stars Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith, has also proved a hit on PBS Masterpiece, garnering 11 Emmy nominations.

Filmed at Highclere Castle in Berkshire, the country-house drama has been written by Gosford Park scribe Julian Fellowes, who has mined a rich seam of class, snobbery and social change to deliver a series that is the undisputed TV hit of the past year. And it doesn’t hurt that the show airs on 9pm right after X-Factor, ITV1’s other blockbuster show.

In a recent interview Fellowes revealed that plot lines including the death of a Turkish diplomat in bed with one of the unmarried daughters in the family and the use of the house as a hospital and convalescence home during the war were based on true stories.

Reports that Downton might shutter after three seasons came after Fellowes told an audience at a book festival that he had originally mapped out just three series when he was trying to get the show commissioned. But in the same interview he also noted that had been before the show had proved to be a worldwide hit.