“Downton Abbey” went once more unto the breach Sunday night, unafraid, as so many other competitors were, to take on the Super Bowl with an original episode.
And the British drama on PBS was rewarded with a slightly bigger audience than it accumulated last year, 6.8 million viewers, up from 6.6 million. That made “Downton,” once again, the owner of a coveted title: second-most-watched attraction on television on a night when 111.5 million were viewing the most-watched attraction.
(That total was a record for the Super Bowl, up just a tad from the past high viewership for the game of 111.3 million, two years ago when the New York Giants played the New England Patriots.)
The results might have been expected to be even a little better, what with the Super Bowl providing about as much suspense as an afternoon tea at the dowager’s — and fewer good lines.
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But there was still plenty of satisfaction at PBS, which for a third straight year saw its most popular drama ever hold up against the tsunami of the NFL extravaganza.
The numbers are down from the 8.2 million who watched the previous episode of “Downton,” undoubtedly because of some drift to the game. But considering that viewers can now easily record “Downton” to view later, the total remains impressive.
The powers of PBS did try to kick up a little extra interest this year with a social-media campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the cute title “Drama Bowl.”
But it was more likely the lack of the competitive football action that accounted for the 3 percent audience gain.