The return of Downton Abbey was unable to match the launch of last year's series, the latest figures showed.

However, the ITV1 show - which has moved into the 1920s for its latest run - still proved popular as it drew double the viewers of rival channel BBC One's drama Inspector George Gently.

TV REVIEW: Downton Abbey Sees A Long-Awaited Wedding, But Branson's Pickled

Downton's 90-minute opener was seen by an average audience of nine million, including viewers on ITV's +1 channel, to become the station's highest rating drama so far this year.

downton abbey

But it drew 300,000 fewer viewers than the first episode of the 2011 series. It peaked at 9.6 million viewers, which was 800,000 down on the corresponding show last year.

Inspector George Gently - which had an hour-long overlap with Downton - landed an average audience of 4.3 million.

There was good news for The X Factor, which saw a huge boost in its audience to draw its biggest ratings of the series when an average of 9.7 million viewers watched the audition show.

A week earlier it had dipped below 8 million, giving the lowest audience for five years.

However, last night's edition was still 1.8 million down on this stage of the contest in 2011.

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  • Downton series 3 episode 1

    Downton's new footman Alfred Nugent

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    Lady Mary, Lady Sybil and Anna

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    Earl Of Grantham, Robert

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    Alfred Nugent

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    Mrs Hughes

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    Mrs Hughes and Mr Carson

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    Dinner downstairs

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    Mrs Hughes and O'Brien

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    Alfred Nugent

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    Mr Carson

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    Mr Carson

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    O'Brien

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    O'Brien

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    Tom Branson

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    Anna Bates and Thomas Barrow

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    Carson and O'Brien

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    Daisy

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    Thomas and Daisy

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    Alfred Nugent

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    Robert

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    Robert

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    Robert and Carson

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    Robert and Carson

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    Lady Edith

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    Anthony Strallan

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    Lady Edith and Anthony Strallan

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    Lady Edith

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    Anna and Bates

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    Bates

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    Anna

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    Anna

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    Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson

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    Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson

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