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PBS is standing its ground on delaying the release of Downton Abbey series 4 until after it airs in the U.K., but they may make an about-face on Sherlock series 3.

First, a catch up: PBS has already confirmed in recent months that Sherlock series 3 will premiere in early 2014. Downton Abbey series 4 will air specifically on January 5.

But in comments made today at their Television Critics Association panel in Los Angeles, PBS president Paula Kerger said that they may air Sherlock at the same time it runs in the United Kingdom (reportedly this fall): “We haven’t yet set the broadcast for Sherlock and we’re actually looking very carefully. I don’t think the broadcast for the U.K. [has been set] either. But that’s a subject of great interest, obviously, because like Downton, it has a very passionate fan base….we’ll look at the schedule for Sherlock very carefully.”

This is an interesting change of heart from just three weeks ago when Sherlock‘s showrunners said at San Diego Comic-Con that the show would premiere on PBS in early 2014 – a statement that actually drew groans from the audience and ended the panel on a low note rather than a high one.

We told you earlier this year that Benedict Cumberbatch was personally campaigning to have Sherlock run simultaneously in both countries.

Elsewhere in her panel today, Kerger spoke about why they’ve not moved Downton’s U.S. airings to the U.K. schedule. “I think as we have looked at this whole issue of spoilers and thought about how best to steward the property and also think about the viewership, we considered a number of factors in the scheduling of Downton,” she explained. “The fact that word-of-mouth travels after it airs in the U.K. has actually benefited us … we kind of don’t want to mess with that if it’s working so well.”

This remark is also interesting because it sounds like Kerger thinks that simultaneous airings could actually damage viewership. She seems to be missing the fact that many U.S. viewers illegally obtain the show so they aren’t spoiled online.

Thanks to EW for the quotes.

  • Jamie

    The word of mouth argument makes sense for the first season, maybe even two seasons, but after that it completely loses merit. For later seasons they are just losing viewers who will find illegal means of watching the show, which is too bad because PBS can always use a boost.

  • Caroline J.

    maybe im wrong (i dont know about tv economics) but maybe airing the show at separate times creates a steadier cash flow? as opposed to a spike for 10 weeks in the fall. and then by the time it airs in the U.S. they’re already filming the next series, so interest remains piqued? thats my best guess. and i’m probably wrong, lol.

    • http://www.hypable.com/ Andrew Sims

      That’s definitely a valid case for internet traffic on websites like ours, but PBS and ITV are totally different networks and I don’t think they’d benefit off of separate airings.

    • Janey

      Your theory is worthy of Andrew commenting about it. How does it feel? :)

  • Maria Wang

    Everybody needs to send this lady a howler, she ain’t talking sense.

  • http://ravenclaw1991.tumblr.com/ ravenclaw1991

    Please, for the love of god, air Sherlock on the same day in the US as the UK. If they don’t, we’re all going to resort to watching it online. I’d much rather watch it on tv. At least the first time. Downton Abbey should air at the same day too. I might not watch it, but its certainly on my watch list.

  • jackie whitus

    Making US viewers wait months to see Downton Abbey or Sherlock doesn’t viewers more excited to watch it when it airs on PBS, it makes them antsier to see it and go to the internet to watch it illegally.

    • ElfMaidenArcherofRivendell

      It even happens with smaller series such as BBC’s Shakespearean mini-series “The Hollow Crown” made famous by Tom Hiddleston, Ben Whishaw and Jeremy Irons. BBC America thought that it wouldn’t do well (I guess they had no idea about the large amount of Hiddlestoners dying to see it) so they backed out only for PBS to have to co-produce it. Turns out that non-UK fans ended up streaming, downloading, watching it on YouTube or making their computers think they were in the UK so that they could watch on BBC iPlayer in all it’s HD w/ subtitles glory. Everybody’s already seen it when it aired last summer and only now is it airing this fall on PBS.
      Same goes with “Sherlock”.

  • Rob

    It’s amazing that there’s so much fuss from this. The rest of the world usually have to wait weeks or months (U.K. is a year behind with True Blood) and yet there are little to no complaints.

    This is what happens to everyone else America, stop whining.

    • Dlmarvin05

      Maybe if they made a little more noise their channels would consider simultaneously airing the shows too

    • http://xyue-mayx.deviantart.com/ Dreamer

      considering the US makes up a good portion of their viewship, it’s just plain idiotic NOT to air it on the same day as the UK, especially since their so concerned with money. And hey, we were loud about our complaint and so we may just get our way with this.

      • Hill


        -sips tea-

        Be a little refined, stiff upper lip, all that. Quite.

        • Karmella

          Why is it so terrible that we want to see a show that we love? I have never been annoying about it, and I definitely don’t think Americans are more important… but honestly, can you say you’ll just be like “Well, I’ll wait, because other countries have to wait for our shows”? I’m sure all fans are upset about delays, so stop stereotyping Americans. We’re really not horrible and whiny (well, not everyone). Sometimes during school I live for my shows, and they’re important to me. Why can’t you be happy for all fans, instead of trashing Americans for being spoiled and whiny and unsophisticated?

      • Sam

        We Brits are sick of America getting everything they want when it comes to British media.

        You got the Doctor Who 50th anniversary trailer, you got the Harry Potter theme park (and if that wasn’t enough you complained so much about having one you got two).

        God, let us have something first for a bloody change!

  • Max Rakušček

    Confession bear: I feel good for the U.S. getting English shows later, because everyone else gets all the american shows a year later at best.

  • Meghan

    I could have sworn that they already told us that the simultaneous airing wasn’t happening…

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