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.

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