We knew the 8-episode, 16 1/2-hour Ken Burns documentary on country music that aired in mid September on PBS would have a significant impact and reach millions of viewers due to the popularity and prestige Ken Burns enjoys. We already knew that some of the artists featured saw a boost in sales after they were featured in the film. Now we have the final tabulations on how many total viewers the documentary reached, and they’re quite impressive.
Country Music by Ken Burns drew an impressive 34.5 million unique viewers during the documentary’s eight night run according to Nielsen, averaging an audience of 6.8 million each night, and an average household rating of 4.4 over the period. Furthermore, an additional 4 million viewers streamed the series online during the time period. The series also racked up almost 1.5 million engagements on social media across Facebook and Twitter.
How does this stack up to other Ken Burns documentaries? His 2017 film The Vietnam War reached an average of 6.7 million viewers a night, and 34 million total viewers, so just slightly below where Country Music came in. This means that Country Music was the most-viewed Ken Burns documentary in the last 20 years when considering total viewers. The 2014 film The Roosevelts had a higher average of nightly viewers with 11.7 million, but only had a total of 33.3 million viewers over the 7 episodes.
“We couldn’t be happier with the audience we reached with ‘Country Music,’” says Burns. “We were fortunate to travel across the country to towns large and small to discuss this film and this history, and in each, we were met with new stories about the power of music. The PBS stations in just about every market helped us engage a public that rightly sees this music as their heritage.”
Through this large audience, country music has seen a sizable re-engagement from fans with many of the older artists featured on the program. Country Music helped reset and define what country music is. Even people who were disappointed in the documentary for one reason or another still watched intently. An article posted on Saving Country Music about the names the documentary overlooked has now received nearly 800 comments and counting—the most comments left on any SCM article in over 11 years.
If you missed the documentary, Country Music can still be streamed online. Episodes will also re-air in Friday nights at 9:00 pm Eastern, 8:00 pm Central starting January 3rd, and running through February 21st, 2020.