Downton Abbey said goodbye to an estimated 9.6 million viewers on Sunday night, lowering the curtain on PBS' most successful series in ages with its fourth most-watched episode.
Only the premiere episodes of the last three seasons had larger audiences, topped by the 10.2 million in 2014, the Nielsen company said. The numbers will rise when time-shifted viewing is taken into account; the 2014 season premiere reached 15.5 million viewers after a month.
"These six seasons of Downton Abbey have truly been a fantastic ride for all of us in the public television family," said Paula Kerger, PBS president and CEO.
The household help on Downton Abbey proved no match for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as television stars. Fox News Channel's telecast of last Thursday's GOP presidential debate was the week's most-watched program with just under 17 million viewers.
Fox News had the unusual achievement of beating Fox's broadcast network in the weekly ratings, Nielsen said.
CBS won the week in prime-time, averaging 7.7 million viewers. NBC had 6.4 million, and won among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic most attractive to advertisers. ABC had 4.4 million, Fox had 3.6 million, Univision had 1.8 million, ION Television had 1.3 million, the CW has 1.19 million and Telemundo had 1.16 million.
The GOP debate led Fox to the top as the most popular cable network, averaging 4.14 million viewers in prime-time. CNN had 2.08 million, AMC and HGTV tied at 1.64 million and USA had 1.58 million.
On the week of Super Tuesday, NBC's Nightly News (8.924 million) and ABC's World News Tonight (8.917 million) essentially tied for the top of the evening new ratings. The CBS Evening News had 7.3 million.
For the week of Feb. 29-March 6, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: Republican Presidential Debate, Fox News Channel, 16.83 million; NCIS, CBS, 15.45 million; The Voice (Monday), NBC, 13.33 million; The Walking Dead, AMC, 12.82 million. "The Voice" (Tuesday), NBC, 12.29 million; "NCIS: New Orleans," CBS, 11.73 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 11.44 million; "Madam Secretary," CBS, 10.19 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 10.08 million; "Criminal Minds," CBS, 9.32 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.
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