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Sundays on PBS Remain TV's Top Destination for Drama


PBS and WGBH announced today the final national ratings for hit dramas "Downton Abbey, Season 4" and "Sherlock, Season 3" on MASTERPIECE. An average audience of 13.2 million viewers tuned into PBS member stations for "Downton Abbey, Season 4," reinforcing its status as PBS' highest-rated drama in history (and up from 11.5 million viewers for Season 3). The average audience for "Sherlock, Season 3" grew to 6.6 million viewers in its new 10 p.m. timeslot - up from 4.4 million viewers in Season 2.

Sunday nights continue to grow for PBS stations with Sunday average Primetime household ratings up 30 percent since the 2012-2013 season. A strong lineup of British dramas continues throughout the spring, including the premieres of CALL THE MIDWIFE (Season 3), MASTERPIECE "Mr. Selfridge, Season 2" on March 30 and THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE (Season 2) on April 13.

"The pairing of 'Downton Abbey' and 'Sherlock' was a winning blueprint this year, helping both series reach record audiences on PBS member stations," said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. "British drama lovers have even more to look forward to this spring with new seasons of fan-favorite series returning to their local stations."

"The success of 'Downton Abbey' and 'Sherlock' proves again that superb storytelling and first-class acting are an unbeatable combination. If this is indeed a Golden Age of television, we're proud to be right in The Middle of it, " said MASTERPIECE executive producer Rebecca Eaton. "Congratulations to our partners at Carnival Films and Hartswood Films on the extraordinary results for these programs."

"Downton Abbey, Season 4" Continues to Break Records

The fourth season of "Downton Abbey," a Carnival Films/MASTERPIECE co-production, is now the highest-rated drama in PBS history, outperforming the drama's record-breaking third season for the top spot. Per Nielsen, the eight-week season earned an average national household rating of 8.5 - up from Season 3's 7.7 national household rating - and 26 million viewers tuned in over the course of the season.

According to Social Guide Intelligence, on Sunday nights across its run, "Downton" generated more than 280,000 tweets and more than 35.6 million impressions while facing stiff social media competition, including the Golden Globes, the Olympics and Super Bowl XLVIII.

Gareth Neame, executive producer of "Downton Abbey," said: "We are thrilled that American audiences continue to be entertained by the Crawley family and their servants. We're incredibly proud that our British show is one of the highest rated shows in the U.S., with ratings growing across the first four seasons, and delighted for our friends at MASTERPIECE and PBS that the show has garnered such an impressive result for them."

"Sherlock, Season 3" Sees Notable Increases from Season 2

Numbers for "Sherlock" were dynamic across its third season, with an average audience dramatically higher than the PBS average audience in the 10:00-11:30 p.m. timeslot. The third season of the drama, a Hartswood Films Production for BBC/Cymru Wales co-produced with MASTERPIECE and distributed by BBC Worldwide, improved upon the second season in all areas, notably in its 4.1 national household rating, which was a 46 percent increase from a 2.8 rating for Season 2. The average audience improved 50 percent to 6.6 million, and the 13.5 million total viewers reached increased 26 percent from 10.7 million in 2012.

On Sundays across its three-week run, "Sherlock" fans produced more than 58,000 tweets and generated nearly 4 million impressions against programming including the Grammy Awards, NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLVIII. (Source: Social Guide Intelligence).

"Watching 'Sherlock' become such a huge worldwide hit has been a fantastic and exciting experience for us at Hartswood Films," said executive producer Sue Vertue. "The success of the series in the US has consolidated its global reach and we are delighted to have received such support on this journey from PBS and MASTERPIECE. We're thrilled to be part of a US phenomenon."

Online and Mobile Viewing Draws Millions of Viewers, Web Traffic Increases

While PBS member stations remain the strong first place for series viewing, there were 11.1 million streams of full episodes of "Downton Abbey, Season 4" and 3.3 million streams of full episodes of "Sherlock, Season 3" across desktop, mobile and PBS apps on Roku, XBox and Apple TV. Online viewers are increasingly consuming content on PBS mobile apps and over-the-top devices, which accounted for almost half (46%) of the total streams for each program. The MASTERPIECE website also saw increased traffic during "Downton Abbey" and "Sherlock" broadcasts, with more than 10.1 million unique visitors making 22.2 million visits to the site in January and February (Source: Google Analytics).

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From This Author Caryn Robbins