It’s a veddy big and happy farewell for ‘Downton Abbey’

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Public television's fond farewell for Downton Abbey started with a festive float in the Rose Bowl Parade in January, complete with star Elizabeth McGovern and PBS President Paula Kerger. (Photo: Kyle Espeleta, PBS)

Public television’s fond farewell for Downton Abbey started with a festive float in the Rose Bowl Parade Jan. 2, complete with star Elizabeth McGovern and PBS President Paula Kerger. (Photo: Kyle Espeleta, PBS)

As expected, PBS garnered huge ratings with the series finale of Downton Abbey.

Some 9.6 million viewers tuned in for Sunday night’s last episode, according to Nielsen Fast National data. That was the most-watched finale for any season, up 14 percent from the Season 5 finale last March.

Also on Sunday, more than 25,400 people sent 66,400 tweets about the show, also according to Nielsen. The final season also generated 12.4 million streams across all PBS digital platforms as of Tuesday, making it the most-streamed season of the series.

It’s hardly a spoiler to say that all characters lived happily ever after — or that, as the New York Times wrote, the finish was “predictably upbeat.” Vox decided Downton went “from great to awful to pretty good again.” Slate declared the series “glorious, maddening, flawed and spectacular.” And singer John Legend couldn’t resist adding his own lyrics to the regal theme song.

The Masterpiece title started out as a typical British costume drama in 2011 but soon turned “magical, like lighting in a bottle” for public television, as PBS President Paula Kerger said. Downton brought in not only huge numbers of fans but also millions of dollars in revenue for the system through multiplatform content deals.

By the time the characters finished singing “Auld Lang Syne” and the screen faded to dark, Downton Abbey signed off as one of the most honored television series, with 12 Emmys, three Golden Globes, four Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Producers Guild Awards and four BAFTAS. That makes it the top PBS drama and Masterpiece series in awards.

But fear not, fans going through withdrawal: Creator Julian Fellowes told Variety that he’s “completely up” for a Downton movie.

  • altfactor@hotmail.com

    The “Downton” finale aired on most PBS stations as a pledge event.

    How much money was raised?

    • Dru Sefton, Current

      Hi altfactor: Dru from Current here, I cover public TV. PBS does not publicly disclose pledge revenues because it is a membership organization and considers those numbers proprietary. However, we receive pledge reports and write stories when the results merit — if, say, results are way up or down. I can tell you that Downton is consistently a top pledge generator and has been for several years. Last August, for instance, the “Downton Abbey Revisited” special was the top pledge show, raising $2.4 million for 121 stations. That overall drive nationwide raised $25.8 million. Those are fairly typical numbers. Hope that gives you an idea of the money it generates. Thanks for your comment.

    • Dru Sefton, Current

      Hi altfactor: We’ve finally received the pledge figures for the Downton finale (it takes awhile for PBS to tally) so I wanted to circle back to answer your question. That program brought in $1.46 million for 113 stations, with an average pledge of $217. The overall March pledge drive raised a total of $39.3 million, down from $42.1 million for the same drive time last year.