Roughly 13 million watched opening of Burns' Vietnam War doc

Markets Associated Press

Roughly 13 million people saw the first episode of PBS' documentary on the Vietnam War, the biggest audience for a PBS program since the finale of "Downton Abbey" in March 2016.

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The 18-hour documentary series produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is another example of people experiencing television on their own terms. The Nielsen company said an estimated 31 percent of TV viewers taped the premiere and watched it later, and 2 million people streamed it online. The first episode premiered on Sept. 17.

Nielsen does not yet have viewership estimates for the series as a whole.

PBS sought to give viewers several options for watching each episode. Every episode was repeated immediately after it first aired, and episodes were made available for streaming at the same time they were on TV. PBS is now re-airing the series in weekly installments.

The delayed viewing and streaming were interesting to PBS, since with an older audience its executives expected more people to be watching on live TV, said Beth Hoppe, chief programming executive for public television.

"What it tells me is if you make good content available, whenever or wherever, people will come to it," she said.

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Burns said it was a tremendous honor that so many people had watched.