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TV Column
Posted at 06:43 PM ET, 01/14/2013

PBS unlikely to air ‘Downton Abbey’ in U.S. at the same time as the U.K.

Don’t expect PBS to start airing “Downton Abbey” episodes closer to their run in the UK, after the third season debut clocked nearly 8 million viewers for PBS, quadrupling PBS’s primetime average.


“Downton Abbey” season 3 (Nick Briggs - AP)
The initial numbers are a “beautiful thing,” PBS chief Paula Kerger told TV critics Monday, saying she wasn’t sure airing “Downton” in the fall against stiff competition from the commercial broadcast networks is in the best interest of viewers or the franchise.

The third season aired in the fall in the UK, and TV critics complained about the wait — like they did with the London Summer Olympics tape delays, as one critic noted during Kerger’s Q&A.

Kerger’s right, based on early “Downton” stats. And, London Summer Olympics viewing hit historic levels, so apparently NBC’s decision to tape delay portions of the Games was right too, and TV critics need to get over themselves.

The fourth season of “Downton” is getting underway, Kerger was pressed for details, including the future of this season’s newest cast member Shirley MacLaine.

“I’m not telling you anything about Season 4 — don’t trick me!” she joked.

Less funny, Apple told the Associated Press that rabid “Downton” fans can see the final three episodes of this season before they premiere on public television — if they cough up the cash to buy iTunes season passes.

Apple claims “Dowton’s” second season was last year’s best-selling TV series on iTunes, but would not provide AP with any stats.

The exclusive preview of a TV series is the first for iTunes, the company said. For the rest of us slobs, the third season finale airs Feb. 17 on PBS.

By  |  06:43 PM ET, 01/14/2013

 
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