Downton Abbey's Surprise Success Means Huge Ratings Boost For PBS

In 2013, cable is dominating traditional broadcast giants and unexpected cult hits like Downton Abbey are where it’s at. By “it” we of course mean huge rating boosts. While ratings at the major networks plateau (and that’s considered a good thing,) PBS’s numbers have gone up 5% in prime time – and that’s just overall, with Sundays (aka Downton night) seeing a staggering 26% boost, no doubt due to PBS’s biggest hit in decades.

Julianne Fellowes, National Television Awards
Creator Julian Fellowes has teased a tension-filled season full of high profile departures.

"We are living in a golden era of drama in television," Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS commented for USA Today. "There is some very rich content and we have found that Sunday night on public television has become a great night for drama." Some criticisms have arisen from American Downton fans over the show’s airdates stateside. The fourth season won’t even begin airing in the US, until it is well and truly over across the Pond, which means that audiences are not only getting frustrated, but also run the risk of spoilers.

Nigel Harman, The Hothouse Press Night
Nigel Harman, however, will be one new arrival.

Kerger, however, is of the opinion that the airing schedule works well to increase the hype for the coming season. According to her, PBS just doesn’t want to mess with success.

"We kind of don't want to mess with that if it's working so well." Though, she adds, for other series, PBS is not opposed to running them closer to the British airdates.

Tom Cullen, Emporio Armani Summer Garden
The season will also introduce several new faces, including Tom Cullen as Lord Anthony Gillingham.


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