'Downton Abbey' Season Finale Sets Two-Year Ratings High in U.K.

Downton Abbey Still - H 2015
Courtesy of BBC America

The hit drama, created by Julian Fellowes, ended its sixth and final season with an average of 8.8 million viewers before its return to ITV for its final Christmas special.

The penultimate episode of hit drama Downton Abbey drew an average audience of 8.8 million for U.K. broadcaster ITV on Sunday night, according to overnight ratings provided by ITV.

A spokesman tweeted: "The 6th and final series of @DowntonAbbey bowed out last night with a slot winning 8.8m (39%) and a 9.5m peak, 500,000 up year on year."

The Sunday night ratings were the best for the drama since November 2013, according to Broadcast magazine, which cited 8.9 million viewers. They were also the best for the final season.

Sunday night's episode ran 90 minutes and ended the eight-episode final season of the drama, created by Julian Fellowes and produced by NBCUniversal-owned Carnival Films, with Carnival boss Gareth Neame as executive producer. It will return to ITV for a last outing with its final Christmas special.

Last year's season finale of the show, which in the U.S. airs on PBS, drew an average audience of 8.3 million in the overnight ratings for ITV, the drama's lowest-rated season finale in Britain.

The Sunday performance also compared with 7.6 million viewers for the season 6 opener earlier this season, down from the 8.4 million recorded in overnight data last season.

"Downton Abbey convincingly won its slot between 9 p.m. and 10.30 p.m. with almost double the audience of BBC1," ITV said.

According to Overnights.tv, BBC hit dancing competition Strictly Come Dancing "waltzed off with a hefty 10.4m/43% on BBC1 from 7:15 p.m." on Sunday. And The X Factor on ITV drew an average audience of 7.2 million, up from 6.7 million the previous week.