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Close to 12-Million Viewers for The Debut of ‘The Vietnam War’ on PBS

Highest Rated Telecast Since the Series Final of 'Downton Abbey'

The premiere episode of “The Vietnam War,”the 10-part, 18-hour documentary film series from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that aired on Sunday, September 17, drew an average audience of 9.6 million total viewers across PBS stations nationwide (with a 6.0 household rating). According to the Live + 7 Day data, a total of 11.9 million unique viewers watched this premiere. The first episode has been streamed over two million times to date, making it the most-streamed series premiere in PBS history.

Comparably, the premiere episode of “The Vietnam War” is PBS’ highest-rated telecast of the Nielsen 2016-17 broadcast season and the best performing since the series finale of “Downton Abbey” on MASTERPIECE in March 2016. And 6.0 rating for “The Vietnam War” is more than 300 percent greater than PBS’ average primetime rating. It also ranks among the highest-rated episodes of all time for a Ken Burns/Lynn Novick series, rising above titles including “Prohibition” (2011), “The War” (2007) and “Jazz” (2001).

Written by Marc Berman

Marc Berman

Marc Berman has been writing professionally since 1999 and is the author of the “Mr. Television” for Campaign US ( Most recently, Berman was the creator and Editor-in-Chief of website and newsletter TV Media Insights for Cross MediaWorks. From 1999-2011, he was the Senior Editor for Mediaweek and has also written for The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Emmy Magazine, among others. Berman has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” “Inside Edition,” “The CBS Evening News,” E!, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

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  1. Just love how they’re now starting to publish unaudited streaming numbers as if they were credible…

    That said the 9 million overnight is very good for PBS or for a documentary. It didn’t need all the PR spinning…