PBS saw a massive increase in viewers for the season premiere of “Downton Abbey” on Sunday, pulling in an average of 7.9 million. The figure, by one metric, marked an 88% bump over the Season Two debut a year ago, which brought an average of 4.2 million.
Household ratings rose by a similar 89% to a 5.1 average, according to Nielsen fast national numbers.
In the 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. time slot Sunday, "Downton" topped all broadcast networks in total viewers, save CBS with its average by one measure of 10.4 million for "The Good Wife" and "The Mentalist."
Broadcast networks, however, tend to measure their success by performance in the 18-to-49 demo. PBS did not release figures there.
NBC aired "The Biggest Loser" from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., while ABC offered episodes of "Revenge" and a pair of comedies.
PBS said the Seattle market brought the highest household ratings for “Downton” on Sunday, with a 9.6 average on KCTS. Boston, where the show aired on WGBH, finished second with an 8.8, followed by Austin with an 8.1 and New York (on WNET) with an 8.0.
The show airs as part of PBS’s “Masterpiece” series, where Ralph Lauren and Viking River Cruises are sponsors, with each airing a spot before the premiere episode.
PBS mounted a social-media campaign to generate interest in the new season, including offering a peek on the PBS and the “Masterpiece” Facebook pages, but the show received a run of high-profile media coverage from “Vanity Fair” to the “Today” show.
An NBCUniversal unit, Carnival Films, is a producer of the show.