KET has seen a record viewership increase in the Nielsen ratings, with a 33 percent jump from February 2011 to February 2012.
Craig Cornwell, KET’s director of programming, says that from year to year, viewership normally fluctuates two or three percent.
“However this year, viewership was up significantly every night of the week,” Cornwell says. “We know our viewers are loyal fans of popular programs like Masterpiece and Antiques Roadshow, but with the increased popularity of Downton Abbey, we’re seeing new viewers come and sample KET’s many other programs, from Frontline to Movie Classics.”
KET has seen a notable increase among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic: viewership among women in that age range is up 168 percent during primetime, and among men in that age range, viewership is up 231 percent during primetime.
The highly popular Masterpiece series Downton Abbey, which aired on Sunday nights from January 8 through February 19, contributed to KET’s increased viewership in the 18-49 age range. The final episode of Downton Abbey averaged 8.1 million viewers nationwide, the highest rating for a PBS program since the premiere of Ken Burns’ National Parks in September 2009. In addition, Downton Abbey’s national ratings were up 25 percent from its first season, and female viewers in the 18-34 demographic increased 251 percent from season one.
For perspective, the March season-five Mad Men premiere on AMC, the most-watched episode of the series, averaged 3.5 million viewers in preliminary Nielsen ratings. The September season finale of HBO’s True Blood averaged almost 5.1 million viewers.
However, an analysis of the Nielson data reveals that, while the popularity and buzz surrounding Downton Abbey may have drawn in new viewers, they came back for other nights of programming. Programs, such as Nova and Nature on Wednesday nights and Antiques Roadshow and Doc Martin on Thursday nights, have attracted a larger and younger audience for KET, as well, largely contributing to the increase in viewership over last year.
Says Cornwell: “Building off the buzz of Downton Abbey, and after having the highest-rated election coverage this past year among all public television stations, we anticipate other programs will continue this upward trend, like the second series of the modern-day Sherlock Holmes that premieres on KET in May, and the new antique-themed reality series Market Warriors that premieres on KET in July.”
More information about KET programming and education services, as well as how to support KET, can be found at ket.org.