Downton Abbey's fourth season premiere in the USA attracted a magnificent 10.2 million viewers, proving the British period drama is as popular as ever across the Atlantic, despite falling viewing figures in the UK. Sunday's episode drew a record audience for a PBS series premiere and was also the evening's most watched programme, according to BBC News.

Downton Abbey Michelle Dockery
The New Series Of 'Downton Abbey' Has Attracted A Huge American Audience.

The fourth series of ITV's hit drama, which centers on the aristocratic Crawley family in their Yorkshire country estate, has been struggling to attract the same level of viewers in the UK as in previous seasons. The viewing levels upon the programme's return have been healthy nonetheless, with an average of 11.8 million viewers across series four, but have seen a gradual decrease over time.

However in the USA, Julian Fellowes' award-winning drama has hit ratings 22% higher than the series three premiere, according to Nielsen statistics. The timing of the airing of Downton Abbey is the USA is the subject of controversy amongst American fans due to the considerably earlier broadcast in the UK, meaning spoilers can be an issue.

Downton Abbey Daisy Mason
10.2 Million American Viewers Tuned In To Watch The British Period Drama Unfold.

PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger said the start of the new series has become a "post-holiday tradition" for millions of US viewers. "As this captivating drama continues, our audiences have been eagerly awaiting this new season to see what's next for these beloved characters," she added.

Since its debut in 2010, Downton Abbey has been sold in more than 220 territories but has received its strongest foreign viewings in the US. However, the news of the show's success in the States comes amidst rumours that Downton is winding to a close after creator Fellowes suggested he is keen to work on other projects, which includes The Gilded Age, a new show crafted for American audiences.

Downton Abbey Jim Carter
The Sizeable Stateside Viewing Figures Bode Well For A Fifth Season Despite A Lag In UK Ratings.

"I don't know yet if there is a season six, but it's not going to go on forever", Fellowes said of Downton in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

A fifth season of Downton Abbey has been confirmed and is expected to air in the UK later this year. Series four is currently being shown on Sundays in the USA on PBS.