Skip to main content
PBS's Rebroadcast of Ken Burns's "The Civil War" Resonating with Viewers Across the Country
Email share

Remastered Film Doubling PBS Audience. Appetite for History Resulting In Record Sales of DVD and Community Participation in Key Markets

New York, NY - October 1, 2002 - As the nation considers our security at home and war abroad, the rebroadcast of Ken Burns's THE CIVIL WAR and its compelling account of the events that forever shaped America's character is generating enormous viewer response on the air, on the Web, in stores and in local communities around the country, PBS announced today.

The five-night telecast, which began airing on Sunday, Sept. 22, has attracted 27 million viewers. The companion DVD, the first-ever digital version of the film (issued by PBS Home Video and distributed in partnership with Warner Home Video), is a top seller online, garnering exceptional customer reviews.

The series' Web site,, has had nearly 750,000 page views from Sept. 21-29. USA Today chose the site as a "Hot Pick" on Sept. 25. Burns promoted the series and the Web site via online chats with AOL (where the site has been featured on the service's Welcome Screen) and The series also launched the PBS Program Club (, a new initiative modeled after book clubs, which encourages people to come together to discuss major PBS programs.

"With the nation contemplating how we protect Americans and democratic values, THE CIVIL WAR comes at a seminal time," said Pat Mitchell, PBS's president and chief executive officer. "We lost thousands of our own on our own soil on a single day last year, a tragedy unmatched since the Civil War itself, and now the nation considers war in Iraq. We are weighing the core issues of unity, security and war, and no film does more to illuminate America's character as we face these difficult questions and challenges than THE CIVIL WAR."

"On a personal level, I'm of course flattered that THE CIVIL WAR is commanding so much attention and interest," Ken Burns said. "But I think it also speaks to the public's desire for television that allows them to explore our history in all of its complexity. Twelve years ago when THE CIVIL WAR first aired we were debating whether to enter into war with Iraq. Again, we are contemplating a war with Iraq, perhaps substituting a more tangible foe for the shadowy forces that shattered our peace and tranquility. Especially at times like this, I believe people are looking to better understand where they came from in order to make better decisions about where they are going."

THE CIVIL WAR has averaged about 150 percent more viewers than PBS's other primetime programs. PBS estimates that 27 million people have tuned in for at least part of the series.

THE CIVIL WAR is currently a top performer in PBS Home Video's consumer catalog and on its e-commerce site ( The film, which over the years has been the second best-selling VHS set in PBS history -- Ken Burns's BASEBALL is number one -- is now the second most popular DVD after only two weeks in release, behind only JAZZ, another major work from Burns.

Several PBS stations, including WETA Washington, D.C. and Georgia Public Broadcasting have organized community events to tap into local interest for the series. In Atlanta, Georgia Public Broadcasting's CIVIL WAR initiative included multi-part television and radio series, a curriculum guide for teachers, and media partnerships with a commercial television station and the major newspaper to promote THE CIVIL WAR and local programming. Both Georgia Public Broadcasting and WPBA held public events with screenings and audience discussions. In markets such as Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., Burns personally taped tune-in spots and participated in community outreach initiatives. In Boston, Burns participated in a seminar concerning race with noted scholar and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates (WONDERS OF THE AFRICAN WORLD) at Harvard University.

"I've been struck by the level of interest in wildly different places," Burns noted. "Whether people became U.S. citizens last year, or whether their families came on the Mayflower, the Civil War is part of their history because it's such a critical part of what defines all of us as Americans."

Following THE CIVIL WAR, PBS will air KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES, a new weekly series featuring the filmmaker introducing some of his most memorable films, beginning on Monday, September 30 at 9:00 p.m., with "The Statue of Liberty." (Check local listings.) Additional titles, which span Burns's entire career, include: "Frank Lloyd Wright," "Brooklyn Bridge," "Thomas Jefferson," "Mark Twain," and a selected episode from "Jazz." Other Burns films, including "Baseball," will round out the series in the spring of 2003. Each title of KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES will also be re-released on DVD.

THE CIVIL WAR is a production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, D.C. KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES is a production of Florentine Films in association with WETA Washington, D.C. Corporate underwriter: General Motors. Funding for AMERICAN STORIES has also been provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 349 public television stations. Serving nearly 100 million people each week, PBS enriches the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services on noncommercial television, the Internet and other media. More information about PBS is available at, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet.


# # #


Michele Paolella, Dan Klores Communications

Cathy Lehrfeld, PBS/NY

Jan McNamara, PBS/VA (PBS Home Video)

Kevin Dando, PBS/VA (PBS Online)