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Could “Downton” ever be spoiler-free?

While other networks were in reruns to avoid a collision with the Ravens, the 49ers and Beyoncé, PBS had yet another triumph on Super Bowl Sunday. "Downton Abbey," in its third season, averaged 6.6 million viewers Sunday night, up 69 percent from its performance the year before. And, as is typical for "Downton," it wasn't justolder longtime "Masterpiece" lovers tuning in: A tweet the network sent out urging bored football fans to tune away from a blacked-out Superdome got over 3,500 retweets.

"Our social media guys were on the stick during the blackout," said Paula Kerger, the president of PBS. Comparing "humble little PBS" to other brands who used the New Orleans blackout to get brand awareness, she noted: "It was Oreo, Tide, and PBS!"

And yet questions exist about whether or not PBS is capitalizing as well as it might on newfound attention to its programming. At the center is the transatlantic broadcast lag of "Downton Abbey." The recent death of central character Lady Sybil was spoiled for some viewers by news reports and recaps from the U.K., where the character died on ITV last October; other viewers pirated the series long before its U.S. airing.

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