Jan 10, 2012

"Downton Abbey" doubles PBS average primetime rating

The ratings for Sunday night's (Jan. 8) Season 2 premiere of "Downton Abbey" on Masterpiece Classic are in, with PBS doubling its average primetime rating as well as topping last season's numbers for the popular Edwardian costume drama by 18 percent, PBS announced. According to Nielsen, the premiere averaged 4.2 million viewers, or a 2.7 household rating, excluding station replays, DVRs or online streaming. Fans were provided with a sneak preview on PBS's Facebook page for two weeks leading up to the first episode; that received 100,000 views. In a press release, Rebecca Eaton, series e.p., said "Downton Abbey" "officially takes its place among the best of Masterpiece titles since the series began in 1971.”

Server failure hinders "Downton Abbey" premiere on Rocky Mountain PBS

Rocky Mountain PBS suffered a server failure at 10:15 p.m. Sunday night — right in the middle of the "most anticipated show on the schedule in years," the Denver Post notes, Masterpiece's "Downton Abbey."

“We deeply regret this happened and for the rest of 'Downton Abbey' will go back to a prior tape based technology as backup,” Doug Price, head of RMPBS, told the paper in an email.

Price added that the station “can’t express our frustration enough with losing 45 minutes of our franchise program for the year. We had a problem about three weeks ago that our technical vendor assured us they had never seen but had none the less resolved.”

The station will repeat the premiere on Thursday and Sunday nights (Jan. 12 and 15).

UPDATE, Jan. 11: "It was a data error on a file on our end," Tom Craig, production manager at Rocky Mountain PBS, told Current. The equipment manufacturer is still investigating but right now it appears that data was corrupted as it moved between internal servers, Craig said. The situation was complicated by several factors: Master control operators had just departed for the night, switching over to automation, and an external alert to engineers wasn't triggered by the glitch, which resulted in a frozen image, because the equipment was still sensing data present. "We had faith in automation, and relatively new servers," Price said. "And we got caught in the middle of a show that's a real favorite with viewers." The station is reviewing its master control operator schedules, and honing its procedures for communicating directly with viewers via social media when such problems occur, Price said.

Hire from rival station boosts ratings "sharply" for KPLU in Tacoma, Wash.

Ratings at KPLU, a jazz and news station based in Tacoma, Wash., are "up sharply" since the Labor Day weekend, according to, when the station brought aboard University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor Cliff Mass, who had been fired from rival KUOW (Current, Aug. 29, 2011) for speaking out on topics other than weather. “I would have to say that has had an influence,” said KPLU’s Joey Cohn. KPLU and KUOW are now tied for fourth place in the Seattle market, which represents a "significant gain for KPLU," the news site notes.

Alabama PTV and WVAS pubradio pair up for revamped "Capitol Journal" coverage

Alabama Public Television is reviving its Capitol Journal program, which had ended last summer as part of a network-wide downsizing of 19 layoffs in response to state funding losses. The political roundtable resumes Jan. 27 with a smaller staff, reports the Birmingham News. "We always intended to bring it back," said station public information director Mike McKenzie, "we just had to find a different way to put the program on the air given the resources that were available to us, sharing the news of the state and what's happening at the Legislature." An Alabama Public Television reporter based in Birmingham will report on education issues at the statehouse, and two reporters from pubradio WVAS-FM in Montgomery will cover the Legislature for Capitol Journal as well as WVAS.

Ford app lets drivers listen to pubradio programming by voice command

Drivers of some 2012 model Fords will be able to listen to on-demand and streaming public radio programs by voice activation, using a new “NPR News” app debuting at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Spoken commands such as “Hourly News,” “Stations” and “Topics” trigger playback of segments and programs via the automaker's SYNC AppLink system, which was developed to allow drivers to control smartphones by voice. NPR is the first news organization to develop a dedicated app for its programming. Users of the app can also create playlists and listen to stations across the country, not just within range of their FM receivers. The niftiest feature? NPR's Carl Kasell narrates the user experience. “Your favorite stations are accessible through the number buttons on your dash,” he tells drivers. “Press once to listen. Press again to discover more from that station. However, no matter how many times you press, I won’t magically appear in your car. Sorry.” New Ford models featuring the omniscient Kasell and the app include the Fiesta, Mustang, F150 and Fusion.