NBC passed on current cultural favorite “Downton Abbey,” produced by NBCUniversal’s Carnival Films studio in London, believing that American audiences wouldn’t have the appetite for a very British historical drama set in a country manor in Edwardian England.
Instead, “Downton Abbey” found a grateful home on public television, as part of the “Masterpiece” lineup. Spoofed on “Saturday Night Live” this year and rated No. 2 nationally in its time slot on Feb. 5, the night of the Super Bowl (aired by NBC), “Downton” has been a stunning success for PBS.
On Feb. 19, 5.4 million viewers watched the season finale, capturing a 3.5 national Nielsen rating and making it the highest-rated PBS show since the premiere of Ken Burns’ “National Parks” in September 2009, PBS says.
“They may have second thoughts about letting it go to PBS,” Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media, said of NBC. “Downton Abbey” probably never would have rated No. 1 in prime time for NBC, but it could have built a solid viewership and brought other benefits to the network’s tarnished reputation.
An NBC official said last week that the network had been delighted at the success of “Downton Abbey” for its sister company and that the decision not to air the show in the United States was made under a previous NBC administration.
But even current NBC executives could have overlooked “Downton Abbey’s” potential, NBC acknowledged. The official said it was hard to imagine any network – including PBS – thinking “Downton” would become a hit.You can read the full article here. They must be regretting their decision now! Thank goodness PBS has always been there for British TV!