When Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey first burst onto British television screens in 2010, it also burst its way into millions of British hearts. It was later broadcast on PBS in the US, where it won over millions of Americans. However, it seems that the lengthy delay between the initial British broadcast and the US broadcast is causing anger amongst US fans.
At present, the hit period drama is broadcast in the US around four months later than the original British broadcast. US fans have criticised the delay, suggesting that the length of the wait could even be encouraging piracy, with some fans turning to downloading the series in order to avoid online spoilers.
The desperation to be up to date with Downton is apparently even affecting some of the most high profile Americans, with reports that First Lady Michelle Obama asked ITV bosses for the season 3 DVD ahead of the US release date.
However, PBS president Paula Kerger has said that new seasons of the show will continue to air in January in the US.
“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,” said Kerger.
The fourth season began on January 5in the US, pulling in over 10 million viewers. With such successful figures, Kerger even suggested that the hit show was becoming something of a post Christmas tradition in the US.
In a time where many British TV shows are causing quite a stir across the pond, the delay between original broadcasts and US broadcasts is a key issue. Sherlock co-creator and Doctor Who show runner Steven Moffat is amongst the most outspoken on the issue, saying that any delay at all is too much.
“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. We’re going to be downloading all our television very, very soon, so the idea you have to wait is nonsense,” said Moffat.
PBS is also currently broadcasting Sherlock, and is trying out a shorter delay, with US fans enjoying the new season less than a month after the British broadcast.
However, in our world of social media, avoiding spoilers is becoming more and more difficult. For the new season of Sherlock, BBC One took precautions against spoilers by tweeting a guide of how to avoid them, and even geo-targeted their Facebook posts to UK based fans only.
The delay between original and international release is something that affects and at times annoys people all over the world, whether it is for TV series, movies or even computer games. The recently broadcast Doctor Who anniversary episode “The Day of the Doctor” broke records for the largest simulcast of a TV drama, however perhaps, in order to combat complaints and piracy, simulcasting will become more commonplace in the future.
For now though, it seems that the Downton Abbey delay is set to stay. Rest assured when it comes to Downton, rest assured America… it’s always worth the wait!