Something tells me, you won’t be hearing the words, “This Streaming Video is made possible through a generous donation from [Insert Corporate Name Here] and viewers like you” anytime soon.
Despite some fans eager to see it earlier, “Downton Abbey” will continue to begin its new seasons on PBS in January, the system’s chief executive said Monday.
The return of “Downton Abbey,” which began its fourth season on Jan. 5, is becoming a post-holiday tradition for the show’s fans, said Paula Kerger, PBS president. The British series began presenting new episodes in late September back home, but PBS holds it back. The drama had more than 10 million viewers for its fourth-season debut, and the episode was streamed online 1 million times during the following week, she said.
Debuting PBS’ most buzz-worthy show at the same time it starts in Britain will put it in direct competition with the new season offerings from the broadcast networks, Kerger said. It is also easier to get cast members to the U.S. to promote the new season if they don’t have to worry about those duties in Britain at the same time.
“It would be very hard for me to imagine putting it anywhere else than where it has seemed to have found a very strong audience,” she said.
Like the U.S., Great Britain has a television season that starts in the fall. Unlike the U.S. — which typically fills this time with “mid-season replacements” and shows on shorter orders — the U.K. also has a television season that begins in January or February. So I understand why PBS is reluctant to force the “Downton” cast to make multiple trips across the pond to promote the show in a whirlwind media tour of London, New York and Los Angeles.
However, we are living in a world where streaming video and “On-Demand” viewing are taking off, and such “exclusive” deals that PBS has with ITV (“Downton’s” home network in the UK) and the BBC (“Sherlock’s”) are becoming moot as more and more Americans buy software which allows them to stream full episodes on the BBC’s UK website.
(Currently, only computers with IPs based in the UK can access the video streaming of bbc.co.uk, however, either a software patch or scrambler device is allowing many Americans to bypass the IP restrictions and view them from their PCs here in the states.)
Also, many showrunners in the UK are publicly stating they hate the way PBS is delaying their shows for their own ratings needs. One of them, is Steven Moffat, who writes “Sherlock.” To try to compensate Moffat’s outrage, PBS moved up the show from its usual March start to mid-January.
The premiere episode of “Series 3” aired this past Sunday.
PBS is experimenting with a shorter delay for the “Sherlock” series, responding to the pleas of fervent fans. The show’s new season began in Britain on New Year’s Day and this past Sunday on PBS.
That’s still too long a delay, said series co-creator and writer Steven Moffat.
“We can’t expect a show to go out in one country and expect people in another country to wait more than a day. The world has changed utterly,” Moffat said in an interview. “We’re going to be downloading all our television very, very soon, so the idea you have to wait is nonsense.”
“Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch agreed.
“It breaks my heart that this hit show, appreciated worldwide as it is, is not delivered worldwide at the same time. And it’s possible,” he said, if PBS and the BBC would coordinate the U.S.-U.K. airings.
Not doing so is a slight to the show’s “communities of fans,” Cumberbatch said.
Moffat’s other show — the sci-fi show “Doctor Who” — is also on the BBC and has apparently solved the problem a number of ways. Many of which were designed to avoid spoilers in an ever-increasing technological world.
The first is that since the start of “Series 7,” the show has been aired on the same day; premiering first in the UK, then airing on BBC America about six hours later. Second have been a series of global simulcasts; starting first with a worldwide announcement of actor Peter Capaldi as “The 12th Doctor” on every BBC-affiliate from the UK to the U.S. to Australia. They repeated the feat in late-November when “The Day of the Doctor,” the 5oth Anniversary Special aired.
It was the single-biggest simulcast event in world history.
No one has actually said how long the contract between BBC and PBS is when it comes to the re-airing of “Sherlock.” Given that it took longer between “Series 2” and “Series 3” to film because of commitments by show stars Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, plans in the works for a “Series 4” and “Series 5” underway, along with Moffat’s urging of same-day airings, the question becomes: If or When does “Sherlock” move to BBC America?
It might happen sooner than a lot of PBS viewers think, and they can blame technology for it.