An estimated 15.5 million viewers tuned in to the 8:00 – 10:30 p.m. premiere of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's World War II film, The War, last night on PBS, according to John Boland, PBS Chief Content Officer. The Gross Audience for the first night, which includes repeat airing from 10:30 p.m. – 1:00 a.m., drew an estimated 18.7 million.
The first episode of the much-anticipated series, which will continue this week Monday through Wednesday, and next week Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, earned an average 5.0 rating and 7 share among the 56 metered market stations tracked by PBS. In key markets, The War garnered even higher ratings, reaching an 11.3/17 in Minneapolis/St. Paul, 10.6/17 in Seattle, 8.4/15 in San Francisco, 8.1/13 in Sacramento and 6.7/11 in New York City.
The broadcast of The War was accompanied by an extensive community outreach initiative involving PBS member stations in every state in the nation — a partnership with the Library of Congress Veterans History project that is reaching into every high school in the country and extensive screenings in more than 50 markets.
In addition, a multi-year public relations campaign, PBS' in-house advertising division and three industry corporate underwriters — General Motors, Anheuser-Busch and Bank of America — organized a unified print, radio and television advertising campaign, the largest campaign in PBS' history.
“World War II was a national event that touched every person in every town,” Ken Burns and Lynn Novick said today. We are honored that the country is focusing on our film. More importantly, however, we are very pleased that the country is focusing on the contribution of this generation and the larger meaning of war.”
"PBS is delighted by the opening night rating of The War, a testament to this masterpiece by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. PBS, however, is less focused on a single night's rating and more interested in serving the broadest possible cross section of the American public through the multiple broadcasts of The War, the Web components, educational tools and community outreach. In terms of television audience, the key measurement for us will be the total number of people who watch the series during the initial multi-week broadcast period,” said John Boland, PBS Chief Content Officer.
Based on cume persons across a mini-series' initial broadcast period, the previous high PBS audiences were for The Civil War (1990) at 38.9 million unduplicated viewers and Baseball (1994) at 43.1 million unduplicated viewers. Both were major mini-series by Ken Burns and they hold the records for the largest total audiences for any program in PBS's nearly 40-year history. In 1990 the first night of The Civil War drew a 9.0 rating and in 1994 the first night of Baseball drew a 5.1 rating. PBS expects to report the cume persons audience for the initial broadcast period of The War when these statistics become available from Nielsen in mid-November.
The War is a production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, DC. Directors/producers: Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Writer: Geoffrey C. Ward. Producer: Sarah Botstein. Co-producers: Peter Miller and David McMahon. Editors: Paul Barnes, Erik Ewers and Tricia Reidy. Cinematographer: Buddy Squires. Narrator: Keith David.
Corporate funding is provided by General Motors, Anheuser-Busch and Bank of America. Major funding is provided by Lilly Endowment, Inc.; Public Television Viewers and PBS; National Endowment for the Humanities; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. Additional funding is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts; The Longaberger Foundation; and Park Foundation, Inc.
For more information and photos go to pbs.org/pressroom.
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Source: Ratings-NSI average of 56 metered market stations tracked by PBS. Projections-estimates developed by PBS Research based on historical program ratings and cumes.