ITV’s Downton Abbey will shut its doors for good this year, with the forthcoming sixth season bringing the show to a close.
The period drama has been a runaway international hit for ITV, boosting the broadcasters’ revenues and profits in recent years.
Season 5, which concluded earlier this month, was seen by 25.5m people, according to ITV, attracting a weekly average audience of 12.9m viewers.
Downton Abbey is the most nominated British show in Emmy award history, with 51 nominations and 11 wins.
Creator Julian Fellowes, who himself won an Emmy for outstanding writing in a mini-series, movie or dramatic special, said the show would always be a “principal marker” for the careers of those involved.
Peter Fincham, ITV’s director of television, said:
When Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame brought us the idea for Downton Abbey six years ago we thought it would be a great Sunday night series for ITV, but we had no way of knowing that it would become a global phenomenon playing to hundreds of millions of viewers around the world.
Already the news has sparked speculation on Twitter that ITV will fill the slot vacated by one of its most popular shows by hiring newly-sacked Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson from the BBC.
Like Downton Abbey, Top Gear was a big money spinner for the BBC, and also occupied a prime time Sunday night slot.
However, ITV producers’ policy on providing hot meals to cast is unknown.