Downton gives public TV a ratings blockbuster

The Season 2 finale of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic, aired Feb. 19, won the biggest audience for a PBS program since the premiere of Ken Burns’s National Parks: America’s Best Idea in September 2009.

Nielsen estimated that 5.4 million viewers watched the two-hour finale, giving PBS a 3.5 household rating. That doesn’t include the additional viewers of rebroadcasts, DVR recordings and online streams, PBS said.

For the seven-week season, broadcast viewing was double the PBS average in primetime and 25 percent higher than in Downton’s first season.

Online viewing grew much faster. For the full second season, Downton web streaming was up 400 percent over last season, logging 4.8 million views on the PBS Video Portal.

Downton content accounted for more than 9 million streams for 1.5 million unique visitors across all web platforms since the Season 2 premiere Jan. 8 and contributed to the “highest days of traffic ever seen” on the Masterpiece website, PBS said.

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