Premiere of Mercy Street, PBS’ first original drama in more than a decade, clocked 3.3 million viewers in its unveiling last night, following an episode of Downton Abbey‘s final season.

2016 Winter TCA Tour - Day 14Mercy Street’s first household rating came in 16% higher than PBS’  unveiling of Sherlock‘s Season 3, “His Last Vow”, which also had aired immediately after a Downton episode, PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger announced this morning at TCA.

PBS had made Mercy Street’s premiere available for digital streaming ahead of last night’s broadcast debut. The early release helped build interest leading up to the broadcast premiere with nearly 200,000 streams from January 14-17, making it the No. 1 digital premiere ever for PBS.

“If you were on Twitter last night you saw Downton and Mercy trended all night. I think it has begun an important conversation,” Kerger beamed.

Reporters grown accustomed to networks announcing second season pickups after fast overnight premiere numbers come – if not before – wondered why Kerger wasn’t announcing a second season renewal during her TCA exec Q&A.  “We just got the numbers an hour ago, but we’re not ready to make that announcement,” Kerger demurred.

Another reporter took a different approach, asking if she’s seen scripts on the second season, producers having said when at an earlier TCA confab that they were working on them in advance. “I have not seen scripts for Season 2 and I know you’re trying desperately to get me to say Season 2. We have very much let the door open for Season 2 and done what we can to make sure there can be a Season 2, she smiled.

“Has [PBS programming chief] Beth Hoppe seen the scripts?” asked the reporter in a last-ditch effort to get a headline.

“You can ask her,” Kerger said as Hoppe, who was in the ballroom, had her head down, taking notes. She later said she’d seen outlines.

Kerger was more cautious answering questions about Sesame Street moving to HBO. One reporter wondered whether she got a lump in her throat reading coverage of her Sesame Steet muppets appearing during HBO’s portion of the TCA to boast they now were being brought to TV critics by the letters H, B and O.

Kerger answered diplomatically that Sesame Street is produced by an independent production company and she is happy it will continue on public broadcasting [after its run on HBO], and that the HBO deal is enabling the production of more episodes. She quickly tried to turn reporters’ attention to all the other kids educational programming on PBS’ slate, but without much success. She insisted she is happy Sesame Street still is a part of the PBS lineup, “but they are only a part of what is a much bigger effort.” And, in conclusion, she said, “We, like you, will be watching as they continue to work through this partnership.”

“Didn’t it bother you in the least?” to see the iconic PBS franchise now tied to a premium cable network, the TV critic pressed.

“As far as whether it’s a good thing or bad thing, we will continue to see how this plays out,” she said, and nothing more.