'Downton Abbey' fourth season premiere draws 10.2 million viewers

'Downton Abbey' fourth season premiere draws 10.2 million viewers
Laura Carmichael stars as Lady Edith in a scene from season four of the Masterpiece TV series, "Downton Abbey." (AP Photo/PBS/Masterpiece, Nick Briggs)

Matthew Crawley may be gone, but ratings for "Downton Abbey" have never been more alive. 

The fourth season debut of PBS' Masterpiece period saga drew an average of 10.2 million viewers Sunday night, making it the highest rated drama premiere in the public broadcasting institution's history. 

Viewership for the two-hour premiere was up about 24% from the season-three finale, which ended with Crawley's surprise death, and up 29% from last season's opener, according to preliminary numbers from Nielsen.

From 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., PBS tied CBS in total viewership as the latter network aired new episodes of "The Good Wife" and "The Mentalist," based on Nielsen's weighted metered-market averages.

According to Nielsen SocialGuide, 2.9 million people saw one or more of the 97,000 tweets that were sent about the premiere during the evening.

To boost anticipation for the show, 135 local PBS stations hosted screenings in December and January.

[For the record: An eariler version of this post mischaracterized Twitter data from Nielsen SocialGuide.]


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