'Downton Abbey' Draws Lowest U.K. Season-Premiere Overnight Ratings Ever

Downton Abbey Still - H 2015
Courtesy of BBC America

The hit drama, created by Julian Fellowes, returned for its sixth and final season on ITV on Sunday night and was the most-watched show of the day in Britain.

The premiere of the sixth and final season of hit drama Downton Abbey drew an average audience of 7.6 million for U.K. broadcaster ITV on Sunday night, compared with the 8.4 million recorded in overnight data last season. It was the lowest-ever season start for the hit drama in overnight data.

The figure compared with the 9.5 million overnight ratings for the fourth-season debut and the 9 million overnight audience for the third-season opener. The second season had started with nearly 9.3 million viewers, up from the 7.7 million overnights viewers for the first-season opener in 2010.

The audience figures are expected to get a boost by on-demand viewing.?

The share for the 90-minute Sunday debut of the final season amounted to 36 percent of all U.K. homes watching TV at the time, down from 38 percent last year. In terms of viewing share for season-launch episodes, the Sunday performance was in line with the 2011 and 2012 series launches.

The drama, created by Julian Fellowes, on Sunday night also hit a five-minute peak audience of 8.4 million in its 9 p.m. slot, compared with 9.2 million in last season's overnight data.

“It was the most-watched program on any channel on Sunday,” ITV highlighted. It also trounced its 9 p.m. competition. In comparison, BBC One's The Go-Between averaged 2.6 million viewers, peaked with 3.1 million and reached a 12 percent share of viewing.

"With #XFactor and #DowntonAbbey, #ITV ruled peaktime with average share of 32.6% vs BBC1's 19.5% (7-11pm)," Overnights.tv tweeted.

In the U.S., the drama, produced by NBCUniversal's Carnival Films, has been airing on PBS since 2011.