PBS said Sunday’s second-season premiere of British period drama “Downton Abbey” drew 4.2 million viewers, double the network’s prime-time average. Also, the show posted numbers 18% higher than “Downton’s” season-one average last year.
PBS is counting on the show, which has been a phenomenon in Britain, to bring it more so-called mainstream viewers. In Britain, it is a cultural phenomenon and airs on commercial network ITV (not the BBC) with advertising.
Viking River Cruises sponsors the "Masterpiece" series on PBS; "Downton" is the latest entry. Carnival Films, the British arm of NBCUniversal, produces the series.
The viewership figures PBS released are not apples to apples; they involve Nielsen fast national numbers for this season, and metered market averages for last.
PBS will air “Downton’s” second season through Feb. 19. That run has already finished in Britain, where a Christmas-night special posted strong ratings.
After DVR-aided viewing during the week was added in, viewership came in at about 11.6 million, a large percentage of the British total TV audience. That 11.6 million number was up from a live figure of 8.6 million.
PBS should also get a bump from time-shifted viewing and via its Web site.
The second season takes place during World War I, with much of the drama involving the characters’ roles and emotions given the seismic cultural and social changes.