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Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

PBS Series Ranker: The Audience For History & Science Strands, 2014-2017

Science and History programs are anchors of PBS’s programming strategy.

This series of posts covers the audience and pipeline for these two popular genres.

The Big Picture Chart:



  • PBS is a private non-profit corporation whose members are America’s  350 public  TV stations that reach nearly all 119.6 million US TV homes
  • PBS’s average primetime rating of 1.41 translates as an audience of 2,116,000.
  • The average age of PBS viewers is 65.

Volume of Originals / Year (Est)

  • History: 70+ hours
  • Science: 40-50 hours
  • Natural History: 30-40
  • Total: 140-160


I find it helpful to view PBS’s primetime programs as originating from three sources that are closely tied by mission, strategy, funding, cost-sharing, promotions and much more.

  • The weekly primetime strands are presented by the main producing stations, WGBH, WNET and WETA.
  • PBS National, providing limited series and specials.
  • And blockbuster series like this season’s THE VIETNAM WAR from Ken Burns & Lynn Novick.

Smaller PBS stations, American Public Television and other distributors also present programs for the PBS system.

Thanks for this Series of Posts

  • I’m very grateful to the PBS Business Intelligence, PBS Programming and NOVA teams for providing data and context.
  • In upcoming posts I’ll cover in detail the PBS audience and pipelines for: Science / NOVA; Non-NOVA Science; the History Strands, and The Vietnam War.

Deeper Analysis

Archive Valley