January 7, 2013

THE SKED: “Downton Abbey” Rules the (Air)waves


DOWNTON ABBEY returned to PBS in spectacular fashion last night, with an enormous 5.1 household rating.  That was almost double the rating for Season 2’s premiere (almost 50% higher than the Season 2 finale, which was itself up 25% from Season 1), and its 7.9M total audience outrated everything on network TV in the 9-11PM hours last night except The Good Wife and The Mentalist.  (Like those shows, it’s safe to assume that Downton skews on the old side, so no one is talking about its 18-49 rating.)  It also quadrupled the average audience for a PBS show.  In key cities like Boston and New York, that household number went into the 8s, and perhaps most impressively, hordes of Seattle TV viewers celebrated after the Seahawks’ late afternoon playoff win by watching Downton to the tune of a 9.6 household rating

A fourth season of Downton has already been ordered by its British producers, and to use a phrase that wouldn’t be heard on the show, it’s a no-brainer that PBS will carry it as well.  The huge success will also step up the pressure to begin airing the series in the US more or less simultaneously with its UK telecasts, which run from fall through a yearly Christmas special, particularly as this year’s delay has led to an enormous spoiler about the season finale that’s been hard to avoid (but which won’t be repeated here).

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."