Premiere Episode of 'Downton Abbey' Season Three Quadruples Average PBS Primetime Rating

Categories: 1-Featured,Network TV Press Releases

Written By

January 7th, 2013

via press release:

Premiere Episode of “Downton Abbey, Season 3” on MASTERPIECE CLASSIC Quadruples Average PBS Primetime Rating

– 7.9 Million Viewers Tuned In For Premiere –

ARLINGTON, VA; January 7, 2013 – PBS and WGBH announced today that the premiere of MASTERPIECE CLASSIC “Downton Abbey, Season 3” captivated viewers nationwide, building on the love affair with the series that started two years ago. An average audience of 7.9 million viewers tuned in for Sunday’s premiere. (Nielsen Fast National data, 5.1 household rating.) The third season premiere of the Emmy® and Golden Globe® Award-winning series, a Carnival/MASTERPIECE co-production, quadrupled the average PBS primetime rating, and exceeded the average rating of the second season premiere of “Downton Abbey” by 96 percent (based on metered market averages).

Between 9:00-11:00 p.m., PBS was the second-most watched broadcast network on Sunday. Highest local-market ratings were at member stations KCTS-Seattle (9.6 rating, 17 share), WGBH-Boston (8.8/14), KLRU-Austin (8.1/13) and WNET-New York (8.0/12).

“Downton Abbey’ continues to enthrall audiences nationwide, and this season is especially riveting with the addition of Shirley MacLaine to the cast and the lively interaction between her and Maggie Smith,” said PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger. “I’m so pleased that audiences have returned to ‘Downton Abbey’ on their local stations to continue to enjoy some of the best drama on television.”

“The well-loved characters that made Season 2 the most-watched series in MASTERPIECE history continue to delight us,” said MASTERPIECE executive producer Rebecca Eaton. “I’m thrilled to see so many viewers return to the Crawley family’s delicious drama and intrigue.”

The new season, which rejoins the story as the Great War is over and the long-awaited engagement of Lady Mary and Matthew is on, will be available on the PBS Video Portal after each national broadcast for a limited time (watch the season premiere here). All three seasons can be purchased on, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Xbox, Google Play, and Vudu.

Beginning Wednesday, December 26, “Downton” fans were given the opportunity to watch a sneak preview of the opening minutes of Season 3 on the PBS and MASTERPIECE Facebook pages. Available for only two weeks, the preview apps earned more than 150,000 fan views. The frenzy on Facebook grew on January 6, with more than 42,500 user “likes” and 5,000 shares on a single post asking if they were excited about the premiere.

Fans continue to engage with the show and each other on Twitter, as PBS and MASTERPIECE insiders — as well as moderators from Austenprose (@austenprose), The Daily Beast (@televisionary), Tom and Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo) and Vulture (@vulture) — host live discussions during each broadcast. According to SocialGuide Intelligence, the conversation for Downton Abbey garnered nearly 100,000 tweets during the premiere evening. In addition, since January 1, there have been more than 20,500 individual check-ins to “Downton Abbey” using the GetGlue entertainment social network, with a social media reach of more than 8.5 million people.

To engage viewers in the series’ premiere, more than 110 local PBS stations hosted premiere screenings in December and January, collectively drawing more than 30,000 fans. Stations from New Hampshire to Hawaii created events ranging from high teas to history lectures to costume contests.

Since the premiere of “Downton Abbey, Season 1” on January 9, 2011, the critically acclaimed series has gained popularity across a diverse audience and has been honored with nine Primetime Emmy®Awards, including Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Dame Maggie Smith). It has also garnered a Golden Globe® Award for Best Miniseries, a PGA (Producers’ Guild of America) Award and a TCA (Television Critics Association) Award.

“Downton Abbey” is a Carnival/Masterpiece Co-Production.

MASTERPIECE is presented on PBS by WGBH Boston. Rebecca Eaton is Executive Producer for MASTERPIECE. Funding for the series is provided by Viking River Cruises and Ralph Lauren Corporation with additional support from public television viewers and contributors to The MASTERPIECE Trust, created to help ensure the series’ future.

About PBS
PBS, with its nearly 360 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches nearly 123 million people through television and more than 21 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and its website,, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the Internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

About WGBH
WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Arthur, Curious George, and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH also is a leader in educational multimedia, including PBS LearningMedia, and a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to the 36 million Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards…even two Oscars. Find more information at

  • Bill Gorman

    Ultima is correct, others may be confused about the relationship between Nielsen, TV networks and advertisers.

    Ratings get calculated for shows/networks if those networks *pay* Nielsen to do so. Otherwise, presumably Nielsen has all the raw data, but they do not process/calculate anything. The reason networks pay to be rated, is so they can price/sell their ads.

    Until relatively recently, PBS did not pay Nielsen to rate their programming on a regular basis. That changed about 3 years ago. (that linked 2012 post supposed we would see weekly reports on PBS shows, we never have). PBS pays for ratings now because its “sponsorship” efforts are presumably enhanced by having that information.

    We do not see PBS network or program ratings in the information we get regularly, but what we get or don’t get is only a function of what various people would like to send us. It is not indicative of what is or isn’t calculated in total.

  • Barb

    Geez, they sure take their time airing the show. Already got the R2 discs (series 3 and the christmas special) all watched. Wonder how much has been cut.

  • Oliver

    I was under the impression that local PBS stations scheduled their programming locally rather than nationally, unlike a conventional network, which makes ratings comparisons tricky.


    Oddly enough, Downton Abbey is aired on ITV in the UK, which is the trashiest ‘network’ out there.

  • AViewer

    @Oliver – ITV is one of the greatest TV networks in the world. Some of the best shows ever made anywhere have been from ITV and formats that have toppled US ratings for over a decade originated on ITV. Do some reading.

  • DaxJackson

    PBS doesn’t have ads? Man you Americans are so lucky… Downton Abbey on ITV has 1 minute of ads for every 3 minutes of the show. Which is why the viewership declined this year in the UK, a lot of people record it for the sole reason to skip through all the ads lol

  • Oliver


    I live in the UK, which is precisely why I think ITV is a horrible, horrible channel.

    It’s full of lowest-common-demoniator programming, including trashy reality, worthless soaps and generic old-fashioned detective shows. Even their football coverage is an embarassment.

  • AViewer

    @Oliver, regardless of where you live or TV network preferences -It is indisputable that ITV has made some of the greatest TV shows and pioneered some of the greatest and most successful formats ever. Take a look into it – you may be surprised.

  • Anthony Parello (AP076)

    It is more than a little odd that anybody could be that thrilled by ITV’s programming even if payed by them.

  • Oliver


    Such as?

    Idol, a rip-off of the NZ format Popstars, and subsequent clones Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor. I can’t stand any of them, regardless of their viewing figures. Lowest-common-denominator garbage. The less said about Dancing On Ice the better.

    Coronation Street and Emmerdale are horrible, even if the viewing figures are great.

    Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and The Cube are decent quiz formats, but success in creating gimmicky quiz show formats isn’t exactly how you should measure the success of a channel. I am surprised The Cube never became a US series after the US pilot, though. I guess the failure of NBC’s Minute To Win It scared them off.

    The only scripted series of note are The Avengers, The Prisoners and The Muppet Show and they were decades ago. The last scripted series on ITV that I liked was My Parents Are Aliens.

  • Oliver

    @Anthony Parello (AP076)

    So true!

  • AViewer

    Brides head Revisted, Jewel in the Crown, Cracker, Prime Suspect, Downton Abbey, Cold Feet, Hillsborough, The Queen, Avengers, Prisoner, Upstairs Downstairs, Forsyte Saga, Poirot, Morse, Naked Civil Servant, The Sweeney, Randall & Hopkirk, Lost in Austen, countless Jane Austen adaptations, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, The Muppetts, Adventures of Robin Hood, Stingray, Fraggle Rock, John Pilger, World at War, News at Ten, Whickers World, 9/11 Day That Changed The World, Benny Hill, Pop Idol, X Factor, Millionaire, Hells Kitchen, Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

    I could go on and on – with over 50 years of shows.

  • HT

    BBC, ITV, Channel 4 are all head and shoulders about NBC, ABC and Fox. CBS is pretty good – good output. The good thing about UK networks is they provide new content 52 weeks per year. Yes, there are some re-runs, but nothing like here, where viewers often have to endure weeks of back to back reruns or “reality” crap. UK viewers are very lucky, but they love to whinge.

  • The 47th

    Looks like Downton has gone viral in the US. An 96% increment on the previous season premiere is crazy.

    And the good thing is that this season is better than the last one (I’d actually say the worst episode is the first one), so there’s no reason for it to drop too much in the following weeks.

  • carla

    Watching POI repeat on CBS and then the fresh episode of Downton was a great combo. Wish I could do it every weekend.

© 2015 Tribune Digital Ventures