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'Downton Abbey' Posts New Record Ratings With Season 3 Finale

February 20, 2013 (2:10 am) GMT
The latest episode of the British period drama series drew 8.2 million viewers, surpassing the audience of the third season opener.

It isn't too much for PBS and WGBH to say that "" ended its third season on a high note. The Julian Fellowes-created show hit another series high on Sunday, February 17, scoring 8.2 million viewers.

It surpassed the season 3 premiere which posted the biggest audience for PBS with 7.9 million viewers earlier this year. The latest viewership was also up 50% from the season 2 finale (5.4 million viewers) in February 2012.

Throughout the season, the British period drama series also "consistently drew an audience more than quadruple the PBS primetime average." The third installment "exceeded the average rating of the second season by 66% (based on metered market averages)."

The third season of "Downton Abbey" saw the tragic death of Matthew Crawley, whose wife Lady Mary had just given birth to their son. Justifying the decision to kill off ' character, Fellowes explained, "Audiences across the world have been captivated by the ups and downs of Mary and Matthew's relationship, culminating in their wedding."

"Fans have enjoyed what has become a solid and loving marriage. It is for this reason that the producers decided Matthew and Mary could not simply be estranged or parted, resulting in his untimely and tragic death at the end of the [Season 3] finale."

Recent reports say producers have been auditioning actors for the new love interest of Lady Mary, and "EastEnders" star is shortlisted for the role.

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