Downton Abbey’s fourth season nabbed an average audience of 13.2 million viewers with the addition of +7 viewing — up nearly 2 million viewers compared to season 3 — securing its status as PBS’s highest rated drama in its history.
Meanwhile, Sherlock’s third season audience grew to 6.6 million in its new 10 PM timeslot, compared to 4.4 million viewers in Season 2. That’s great news for PBS’s Sunday night, where primetime household ratings jumped 30% since the 2012-13 season, and for PBS’s Masterpiece franchise which, not so long ago, went begging for a corporate sponsor after ExxonMobile bailed.
“The success of Downton Abbey and Sherlock proves again that superb storytelling and first-class acting are an unbeatable combination,” Masterpiece exec producer Rebecca Eaton crowed Wednesday morning. “If this is indeed a Golden Age of television, we’re proud to be right in the middle of it.”
Downton’s eight-week season earned an average national household rating of 8.5 — up from Season 3’s 7.7 — and 26 million viewers tuned in over the course of the season. On Sunday nights across its run, Downton, a Carnival Films/Masterpiece co-production, generated more than 280,000 tweets and more than 35.6 million impressions in the face of stiff social media competition, including the Golden Globe Awards, the Olympics, and Super Bowl XLVIII, according to Social Guide Intelligence,
Sherlock, meanwhile, scored ratings dramatically higher than the PBS average audience in the 10-11:30 PM Sunday timeslot. The third season of the drama, a Hartswood Films Production for BBC/Cymru Wales co-produced with Masterpiece, improved upon the second season in all key metrics, including its 4.1 national household rating — a 46% increase from its 2.8 rating for Season 2. The average audience jumped 50% to 6.6 million, and its 13.5 million total viewers is up 26% from 10.7 million in 2012.
On Sundays across its short three-week run, Sherlock fans generated more than 58,000 tweets and nearly 4 million impressions against programming including the Grammy Awards, NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLVIII, according to Social Guide Intelligence.
PBS member stations remain the primary vehicle for series viewing, but PBS reports 11.1 million streams of full episodes of Downton Abbey’s Season 4, and 3.3 million streams of full episodes of Sherlock’s 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 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, according to Google Analytics.
“The pairing of Downton Abbey and Sherlock was a winning blueprint this year,” Beth Hoppe, PBS’s chief programming executive said.