Thoughts on Downton Abbey’s Release

Audrey Sheehy, staff writer

For the two hour Season Four Premiere of “Downton Abbey,” PBS records were broken when 10.2 million people tuned in. Released on Jan. 5, the show has officially become the highest-rated drama premiere for PBS ever.  Last season, the premiere received eight million viewers in America, but controversy arose due to the airing delay between the US and UK.

The premiere that aired in the US on Jan. 5 aired in Britain on Sept. 22 and was a hit on Twitter long before it was shown to American audiences.

Do you watch Downton Abbey?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Because of the long gap between release dates, many have been illegally trading the show to online websites and sending copies overseas. Americans have had episodes spoiled weeks before they are even aired.  “I’m so mad about it [the airing]. They are going to put it online illegally anyway,” said EHS sophomore Celeste Schumacher, an avid Downton Abbey fan. “After the cliffhanger last season, I just needed to know [what happens]. I can’t have it spoiled.”

Following the show’s success, PBS was reluctant to air it in America during the fall because of the heavy competition. That might have been the best decision for the show during its introduction and first seasons, but with its recent success, a fall release should not have been a problem for the highly-rated drama. Plus, the show now airs from early January to spring, which means it must compete for time with Sunday night football and eventually the Winter Olympics during the show’s peak. On top of those popular sporting events, the show still competes with the new seasons of other popular American shows.

Although PBS has not observed this late release to be hurting their ratings, public pressure might sway the producers to have the same release dates for the US and the UK in the future.