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'No plans' to end Downton Abbey

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image captionThe Christmas episode of Downton Abbey was watched by 9.4 million people

Downton Abbey will continue after its upcoming fifth series, the show's executive producer has said.

Gareth Neame rejected speculation the show would end this year, after writer Julian Fellowes recently said the drama was "not going to go on forever".

"I can confirm there are no plans to end the show after the fifth series," Neame said.

The period drama, which follows the Crawley family and their servants, will return to ITV later this year.

"ITV commission each series on a year-by-year basis," Neame said.

"In an interview given to the Wall Street Journal Julian Fellowes stated the show would not go on forever (inevitable, of course, and something both he and I have been on the record for previously).

"For now ITV have commissioned series five and that is what we are busy preparing."

'No conflict'

Speculation over the future of the show arose when Fellowes told the newspaper he would not be able to continue writing its storylines at the same time as working on his next project - The Gilded Age, described as an American version of Downton Abbey.

However Carnival Films, which is behind the drama, said there was no issue.

"Neame will be collaborating with Fellowes again on The Gilded Age - a project that will in due course be developed for NBCUniversal - hence there is no conflict between the two projects," it said.

Series four of Downton Abbey achieved an average of 11.8 million viewers in the UK.

The Christmas special was watched by 6.6 million on Christmas Day, rising to 9.4 million once catch-up services were taken into account.

Shown with a delay in the US, the opening episode of series four was watched by 10.2 million people on Sunday, a record for a series premiere on PBS.

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