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'Downton Abbey' Ratings: More Than 8 Million Tuned In For Season 3 Finale

02/19/2013 06:03 pm ET

The "Downton Abbey" ratings are in and the period drama went out on a high note.

According to PBS, the third season finale of "Downton Abbey" boasted 8.2 million viewers, a series high in the US and 50 percent more than the Season 2 finale, which brought in 5.4 million viewers. The finale also trumped the Season 3 premiere which had 7.9 million viewers.

Over its third season on PBS, the Masterpiece/Carnival co-production drew more than quadruple PBS's primetime average.

"Downton Abbey" returns for a fourth season in the fall of 2013 in the UK and in January 2014 in the US. There was talk of airing Season 4 in the US closer to the UK airtime in order to circumvent piracy, avoid spoilers and increase viewership stateside. [SPOILER ALERT] News of Dan Stevens' character's death quickly spread after the "Downton Abbey" Christmas special aired in the UK nearly two months before it made it to US shores.

Executive producer Gareth Neame told EW the wait time between the US and UK airings is unrealistic.

"For a show that is this big in both countries, and the audience size is pretty similar across both countries, and it is completely -- there are addicts of this show -- the idea that in this day and age people have to wait four months before watching a show that has aired in another part of the world is clearly unrealistic," he told EW. "I think this is one of the first really big test cases that just shows this doesn’t work. Now all of that said, this is not a complaint about PBS and their programming, because they have very, very tough competition and by airing in January, as you may have observed from the ratings… in terms of just regular Sunday night viewing, I think the only network show that beats us is 'The Good Wife.' Now that means PBS is massively punching above its weight to beat all the networks and if you were to go in September like it does in England, then you probably would have much stiffer competition against the networks. So I think they’re being sensible and pragmatic in their programming."

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