Downton Abbey stars in front of castle

Premiere of “Downton Abbey, The Final Season” on MASTERPIECE Draws Impressive Audience

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– Highest-Rated Drama in PBS History Returns With Average Audience of 9.9 Million–

ARLINGTON, VA; January 5, 2016 — PBS and WGBH announced today that viewers tuned in by the millions on Sunday night to kick-off the final season of one of television’s most beloved dramas. Sunday’s premiere of “Downton Abbey, The Final Season” on MASTERPIECE drew an average audience of 9.9 million viewers (Nielsen Live+Same Day Fast National data, 6.2 household rating). “Downton Abbey,” a Carnival Films/MASTERPIECE co-production, remains the top PBS drama of all time.

The sixth season premiere of the Emmy®, Golden Globe®, SAG Award®, Producers Guild® and BAFTA®-winning series drew an audience nearly even with that of the Season 5 premiere (10.1 million viewers), and the episode’s 6.2 household rating ties it with the Season 4 premiere as the highest-rated episode to date. The episode also drew the biggest ever household audience for “Downton Abbey” with 7.3 million U.S. households tuning in (all based on Nielsen Live+Same Day Fast National data).

Viewership for the episode, which began at 9:00 p.m. ET, remained solid throughout the episode’s one-hour, 15-minute duration. Between 9:30-10:15 p.m., PBS was the second most-watched network on Sunday, behind NBC (based on weighted metered market program averages).

“It’s no surprise that the final season premiere of ‘Downton Abbey’ had such a large audience,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. “Since ‘Downton Abbey’ premiered six years ago, it’s been the show’s loyal fans who have made this show into a global phenomenon. ‘Downton Abbey’ has been event viewing for each and every one of its seasons, and we’re thrilled that audiences are coming together to help give the show the send-off it deserves. Thanks also to MASTERPIECE, Carnival Films and our member stations, who are helping us make the last season of ‘Downton Abbey’ the biggest and best yet.”

MASTERPIECE executive producer Rebecca Eaton noted that MASTERPIECE is celebrating its 45th anniversary on PBS in January. “How perfect that the final season of ‘Downton Abbey’ kicks off our 45th anniversary,” says Eaton. “‘Downton Abbey’ epitomizes the kind of programming we’ve been offering viewers since 1971: impeccably-told stories with characters who touch peoples’ hearts. MASTERPIECE is proud to have brought this beloved series to PBS audiences.”

Gareth Neame, executive producer of “Downton Abbey” and managing director of Carnival Films, which produces the series, added, “We are so grateful for the continued support of audiences that have wholeheartedly embraced the Crawley family and those who serve them for the last five years, helping to make ‘Downton Abbey’ the global success it has become. As we begin the final chapter of this remarkable journey, we can assure fans that season six will deliver Downton’s customary drama and revelation along with the satisfaction of knowing where these beloved characters’ lives will take them after they’ve left our screens.”

According to Nielsen, a Twitter TV audience of 1.4 million people saw more than 47,000 tweets during the premiere evening, generating a total of 6.1 million impressions and making it the #1 primetime series episode, ranked by Unique Audience. PBS and MASTERPIECE insiders — as well as moderators from Tom and Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo), Mandi Bierly of Yahoo! TV (@Mandi Bierly) and Sandra Gonzalez of Mashable (@TheSandraG) — will continue to host live discussions during each broadcast to connect directly with fans on social media.

To engage viewers in the series’ premiere, more than 137 local PBS stations hosted a combined total of more than 320 preview-screening events. These events ranged from intimate gatherings at major donors’ homes, to multiple showings at 3,000-seat theaters to extend the excitement of the series through communities across the country.

The new season is available for streaming free on PBS station websites, PBS.org and PBS’ apps for iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Xbox, Chromecast and FireTV, for a limited time after each national broadcast.

Online excitement has been building for Season 6 over the past several months, with about 1.7 million streams of previews and clips across all PBS platforms leading up to the Season 6 premiere. (Source: Google Analytics 9/1/15 – 1/3/15)

MASTERPIECE STUDIO, MASTERPIECE’s newly launched podcast, reached #7 on iTunes’ top podcast chart on January 4.

There were approximately 360,000 streams of “Downton Abbey, Season 5” full episodes across all PBS platforms in the weeks leading up to the broadcast premiere of Season 6. (Source: Google Analytics 12/1/15 – 1/3/16)

Amazon Prime members can now stream all five past seasons of “Downton Abbey.” Amazon Prime Instant Video is the exclusive subscription video on demand (SVOD) home for “Downton Abbey.”

New episodes of “Downton Abbey, The Final Season” can be purchased the day after their broadcast premieres through iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, VUDU and Google Play. Fans can also purchase Seasons 1-5 of “Downton Abbey” and pre-order Season 6 through sites and services including iTunes, Amazon.com and ShopPBS.org.

For updates pertaining to “Downton Abbey,” go to pbs.org/downton or follow #DowntonPBS on Twitter.

“Downton Abbey” is a Carnival Films/MASTERPIECE co-production written and created by Julian Fellowes. The series is executive produced by Gareth Neame.