TCA: Kerger -- PBS Not 'Punishing' Viewers By Airing 'Downton Abbey' Later in U.S.
Public broadcaster's CEO says net is looking carefully at whether to move premieres closer
By Andrea Morabito -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/14/2013 6:43:42 PMComplete Coverage: TCA Winter Press Tour 2013
PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger is aware that in today's interconnected world, it's hard to avoid spoilers for TV shows with passionate fan bases, but said in airing the hit series Downton Abbey on PBS' Masterpiece months after it airs in the U.K., "we're not punishing our viewers."
Kerger, speaking during her executive session at the Television Critics Association press tour Monday, did say the delay between international airings is something PBS is looking at very carefully.
"At the end of the day, I want to make sure that we're putting the series in a place where the most people can find it and that people will have an opportunity to enjoy it and be part of a larger experience," she said. "And I don't know whether that means jamming it in the fall at the same time that every other broadcaster is running their stuff really serves the series or, frankly, the viewers well."
Also standing in the way of a simultaneous broadcast is that the U.K. version airs with commercials, so the episodes must be re-edited to air on commercial-free PBS.
Kerger cited PBS' experimentation with bringing the U.S. premiere closer to the U.K. broadcast in the case of another co-production, Call the Midwife, whose Christmas episode aired here two days after its U.K. premiere and didn't do as well as PBS executives had hoped, meaning such moves have to be made carefully.
Downton Abbey's own Christmas episode this year spurred a rash of spoiler-related headlines after it aired in the U.K., but its season three premiere on PBS still drew a record-breaking 7.9 million viewers on PBS, suggesting people who knew the outcome still watched.
"I think a little bit about the Olympics. We knew what the outcomes were, but we were still watching them every night," Kerger said, also noting Downton's high streaming numbers that see viewers binge-watch online and then tune in during primetime. "People like to feel that they're participating in something all together. And Downton has played into that very well."
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