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Downton goes head to head with EastEnders

Downton Abbey is to go head to head with EastEnders in the Christmas ratings battle.

The ITV period drama, which will be shown at 8.30pm on Christmas Day, will also be up against Mrs Brown's Boys on BBC 1, during the two-hour long episode.

Cast and crew of Downton Abbey collect the Best Drama award on stage during the 2012 NTA Awards. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Archive/Press Association Image

Downton, which is returning to ITV for a fifth series next year, has been sold to more than 220 territories and watched by an estimated 120 million people around the world since its debut in 2010.

Read more: Oscar-nominated actor Paul Giamatti joins Downton Christmas cast

Giamatti joins Downton Abbey for Christmas special

Oscar-nominated actor Paul Giamatti will be joining the cast of Downton Abbey for the Christmas Day special.

Paul Giamatti
Paul Giamatti, who gained international recognition for his role in 2004 comedy Sideways, will appear in Downton Abbey's Christmas special. Credit: PA

The American star, who was nominated for the best supporting actor Oscar for his role in boxing drama Cinderella Man, will play Lady Grantham's brother.

Not a lot has been given away about Giamatti's role in the ITV drama, but producers have let slip the Christmas Day episode will revolve around Lady Rose MacClare's (Lily James) entry into London's high society.

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Downton Abbey
Downton Abbey's Christmas special will pick up six months after series four left off. Credit: PA

Shirley MacLaine returns as Lady Grantham's mother Martha and James Fox joins the cast as aristocrat Lord Aysgarth.

The two-hour episode of the award-winning ITV series, which will be shown at 8.30pm on Christmas Day, picks up the story six months on from the end of series four.

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USA and Canada looking to UK for holiday

Travellers from long-haul markets such as the USA, Canada, China and Sinapore are increasigly looking to the UK as a possible holiday destination, according to a survey by TripAdvisor.

Internet search traffic for the UK has continued to grow on the site, year-on-year:

  • USA is the fastest growing market - with searches up 23%
  • Canada was next - with searches up 21%
  • UK was next, as the staycation continued - with searches up 20%
  • Searches from Singapore rose 19%
  • Searches from China rose 19%

Looking at sheer numbers rather than the rise in growth, UK residents made up the majority of searches for UK destinations on TripAdvisor, with the USA second and Germany third.

Read: Americans keen for UK visit

More Americans searching UK tourism options

Royal baby news and the success of TV shows like Downton Abbey are driving increased interest in the UK from American would-be tourists, according to holiday website TripAdvisor.

The Royal baby has reignited international interest in the British monarch, according to TripAdvisor. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The USA topped the list of fastest-growing markets, with a 23% year-on-year growth in internet searches for the UK, the company said.

Downton Abbey to return to ITV for a fifth series

ITV and the makers of Downton Abbey, Carnival Films have announced the drama will be returning for a fifth series.

Audience figures for the fourth series hit an average 11.8 million viewers, making it the highest rated drama on television in 2013.

ITV commissions a fifth series of Downton abbey from Carnival Films Credit: ITV/Carnival Films

ITV’s Director of Drama Commissioning, Steve November said:

“We are enormously happy to have Downton Abbey on ITV and we are delighted to be announcing this new series.

"With Julian Fellowes writing and Gareth Nearne and Liz Trubridge producing we know it will be as warm, witty, romantic and dramatic as previous series and we can't wait to catch up with our favourite characters again.”

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Emmy award winners to be revealed in States

Hugh Bonneville is nominated for his role in Downton Abbey Credit: PA

British actors including Damian Lewis and Dame Helen Mirren are in the race for top accolades at Sunday's Emmy awards in the US.

Dame Helen is nominated in the lead actress in a mini series or movie category for her role as a leading lawyer in HBO drama Phil Spector.

Homeland star Lewis is up against fellow Brit Hugh Bonneville, one of the stars of ITV drama Downton Abbey, in the best lead actor in a drama category.

Lewis and Bonneville face stiff competition in their category from Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, Kevin Spacey for House of Cards, Mad Men's Jon Hamm and Jeff Daniels for The Newsroom.

Downton Abbey scored 12 primetime Emmy nominations including Bonneville's nod, best drama series, writing and directing, as well as recognition for his co-stars Dame Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Jim Carter.

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