PBS' latest Ken Burns multipart documentary, The War, averaged a 5 rating/7 share in TV households, according to Nielsen Media Research overnight numbers for Sunday night.
PBS said The War was its highest-rated program in seven years, since an episode of Antiques Roadshow, and the biggest opener for a PBS miniseries since the last Ken Burns documentary, Lewis & Clark, which averaged a 6.1 overnight rating in November 1997.
The War's performance was significantly below the 9 rating Burns' landmark Civil War documentary averaged on its first night in 1990, but that was also a time of a far less fragmented audience, when The Miss America Pageant could still pull a 17 rating.
The War's 5 rating was also slightly below the rating scored by Burns' Baseball documentary (5.1 ) in 1994.
PBS said it is not measuring the show by initial overnights as much as by the impact of its multiple airings in combination with Web components, community outreach and educational efforts associated with the broadcast. For example, Burns has said that local noncommercial stations have produced more than 40 productions mirroring The War, but with their own local voices.
The series will air over four nights this week and three nights next week, with multiple airings, including stations that plan to run the first four episodes back to back next weekend.