ITV1's saga about the Crawley family has been shortlisted for the awards for the first time and is up against Merlin and last year's winner Waterloo Road, as well as Doctor Who, for the title.
Earlier this month Downton landed a Golden Globe in the US as best mini-series.
Doctor Who stars are up for two further awards with Matt Smith, who plays The Doctor, up for best male performance, while Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) is up for the female equivalent.
The event - staged at London's O2 Arena and broadcast by ITV1 - brings together many of the biggest names in TV, and is hosted by Dermot O'Leary.
Ant and Dec will be hoping to take the top entertainment presenter prize for an 11th year on the run after being shortlisted once again. The Geordie duo line up against X Factor host Dermot O'Leary, Keith Lemon and Michael McIntyre.
And comedian McIntyre is up for a further prize with his Comedy Roadshow, which competes for the best entertainment programme title, along with Take Me Out, Dynamo: Magician Impossible and Harry Hill's TV Burp.
Britain's Got Talent is in the running for top talent show, alongside X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing On Ice.
The shortlist for the serial drama performance features two Coronation Street stars - Katherine Kelly and Alison King - as well as Emmerdale's Danny Miller and Jessie Wallace from EastEnders.
The top reality show prize will be fought out by Come Dine With Me, I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!, The Apprentice and The Only Way is Essex.