PBS has scheduled the eight-week run of the hit English period drama to run through the end of February, Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton said today during the PBS Annual Meeting. Downton Abbey is the highest-rated drama in PBS history after its third-season finale drew 8.2 million viewers on February 17, a 50% increase from the Season 2 ender. The timeframe for the PBS airdates falls similar to last year, coming after the fall run of the series on ITV in the UK. The big ratings bumps in the U.S. were notable given the high-stakes spoilers that were parading around the Internet while the show was airing across the pond ahead of its U.S. broadcast. ITV doesn’t announce its schedule until a couple of weeks before shows debut, but a September run there is likely again for the Carnival/Masterpiece co-production.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has pledged to invest £2M ($3M) to broaden the reach of Film London, the body responsible for attracting film and TV shoots to the British capital. The org’s remit will be expanded to bring in £200M in additional expenditure and to create 1,000 industry jobs. With the new 25% tax rebate for high-end drama and animation coming into effect this past Monday, the UK is angling to stem runaway production and encourage foreign shows to shoot in Britain. Sam Mendes’ Showtime series Penny Dreadful will be among the first U.S. TV dramas to benefit. But when the tax credit was recently cleared, it stirred fears that the funds ear-marked for the rebate could be gobbled up by U.S. productions employing British talent on UK shores.
Johnson today stressed the importance of both local and foreign productions. Unveiling the plan at Ealing Studios, home to the Downton Abbey set, Johnson said, “We have an unprecedented opportunity to grow this exciting sector to deliver jobs, produce more world class British drama and, above all, make London the city of choice for TV and animation production… Let’s make sure that all future Downtons are filmed on our turf.”
Ari Gold returns to U.S. TV screens on Sunday, sans BlackBerry and decked out in a three-piece suit — though it won’t be a Brioni. PBS/Masterpiece will debut department store period drama Mr. Selfridge at 9 PM with Jeremy Piven playing the real-life ‘Mile a Minute Harry Selfridge’, the impresario who changed the way women shopped in early 1900s London. Whether the show can take the U.S. by storm, à la PBS mega-hit Downton Abbey, will come to bear over the first series’ run of 10 episodes. But as much as “period drama” has become a sort of blanket term, there are stark differences to the two shows. Both air in the UK on ITV, and The Guardian compared Selfridge to Downton upon its January UK debut, saying, “You can sit back and relax and not expect anyone to die suddenly without warning — only a minor altercation in the ladies glove department.”
Selfridge is an in-house ITV Studios production that garnered strong ratings from the outset in the UK, averaging over 8M viewers during its run from January through March. (It also beat the BAFTA Awards on February 10 despite the kudocast grabbing its highest numbers in a decade.) Downton Abbey, for its third season, had consolidated ratings averaging 11.9M.
The series is set in Selfridge’s department store, the shopping mecca that American entrepreneur Harry Selfridge built in 1909 and which still stands today on Oxford Street. The cast of characters includes shopgirls, socialites and a sexy (male) French window-dresser. At a screening of the first episode late last year, Piven said playing Selfridge was like “artistic sorbet.” At a TCA panel in January, he said he felt no competition pressure with Downton. “I feel like I willed this job to happen because I was such a fan of that show… I think there’s a great deal of camaraderie there.” It will be interesting to see the response given how strongly U.S. viewers equate the actor to his multiple Emmy-winning role in Entourage. Reviews in the UK, where it’s safe to say audiences are less familiar with “hugging it out”, have been largely positive apart from a few claims of hammy acting. The Guardian called it “polished, lavish, enjoyable period stuff” and of the series finale, The Arts Desk wrote: “Mr. Selfridge has had periodically decent thesping and plenty of visual glamour, but frocks alone do not a drama make.”
Downton Abbey‘s third-season opener and closer on Masterpiece Classic strongly outpaced ratings for comparable Season 2 shows — the February 17 finale even beat all of its broadcast and cable competition in primetime. So, it’s no surprise that national household ratings for the entire season were record-breakers. In news that might make even Carson crack a smile, PBS and WGBH said today that a total of 24M viewers tuned in to visit with the Crawley family over seven weeks of Season 3 episodes. That’s a 7M-viewer increase from last year and makes the show PBS’ highest-rated drama ever. The season had a 7.7 average and an average season audience of 11.5M viewers, according to Nielsen Live+7 data. Those figures are up 64% and 65%, respectively, over Season 2. On the UK’s ITV, Season 3 was also the biggest so far and had an overall average of 9.7M viewers.
The figures are notable given the high-stakes spoilers that were parading around the Internet while the show was airing in the UK ahead of its U.S. broadcast. They also set up quite a challenge for Season 4, which is currently shooting with a series of new castmembers — and sans some important ones who ducked out last year.
UPDATE: With the ghosts of the characters that left Downton Abbey last year still figuring heavily, a host of new faces is set to grace the halls of the manor. I’ve confirmed that Tom Cullen (Last Days On Mars), Julian Ovenden (Foyle’s War), opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa …
Almost three years into its five-year Transformation Plan, the UK’s leading commercial broadcaster ended 2012 with a 13% increase in earnings, despite flat ad revenues. In reporting its full-year results this morning, ITV, whose flagship channel …
SPOILER ALERT (if you have yet to watch Sunday’s Downton Abbey finale)…
Sunday’s conclusion of the third season of Downton Abbey capped off what’s been a tough year for the Crawley family. Story-wise, that is. The hit period drama killed off some key characters this season — one midway through and one in the last seconds of the last episode — and kept the audience hooked for record ratings. But what if co-creator Julian Fellowes, the man who writes every episode, were to leave? The idea was floated by Fellowes himself in an interview with The New York Times this week.
Fellowes recently signed on to write and produce NBC period drama The Gilded Age. The project, which has a script commitment with significant penalty attached, is a sweeping epic set in 1880s New York. Fellowes told the paper that if NBC picks up the show, he’ll be writing it when Downton “finishes.” He noted, “There are many hurdles that have to be cleared… But if (Gilded Age) goes, and if I’m doing a series at NBC, I would not be able to write all of Downton and all of that series at the same time.” Should Downton carry on, he said, “it would be with other writers. Perhaps with me supervising, but with other writers.” When I asked Gareth Neame about Fellowes’ comments, the exec producer and head of Carnival Films, which makes Downton, said, “We are currently filming Season 4 of Downton Abbey which is written entirely by Julian Fellowes. The show is in rude health and neither Julian nor I have plans to end it anytime soon.” (Neame is also exec producing the upcoming NBC/Sky Living drama series Dracula.)
The acclaimed actress says she’s never watched Downton Abbey. Why not? “Because it’s frustrating. I always see things that I would like to do differently and think, ‘Oh, why in the name of God did I do that?’” It looks like Smith, who says she’ll watch “when it’s all …
Turns out there were people watching something on TV last night besides Super Bowl XLVII. PBS’ Downton Abbey had the second-highest-rated and -viewed show of primetime Sunday. The 4.4 household rating for Sunday’s 9 PM one-hour broadcast of Masterpiece Classic‘s aristocratic British soap soundly thrashed anything else on in primetime except the Super Bowl, according to Nielsen. Down from last week’s 5.1, that household rating was still up a very strong 69% from the Downton that ran last year on Super Bowl Sunday. The series also pulled in 6.6 million viewers; the second-most-watched show on the Big Four last night after the Super Bowl was the 8 PM America’s Funniest Home Videos repeat on ABC, which drew 2.59 million viewers.
EXCLUSIVE: Coming off a killer Sundance where it acquired The Way, Way Back and unveiled its film Stoker, Searchlight has acquired worldwide rights to Laura Moriarty’s best-selling novel The Chaperone. My Week With Marilyn helmer Simon Curtis will direct a a script written by Downton Abbey‘s Julian Fellowes. The film reunites Fellowes with his Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern. Eli Selden and Adam Shulman of Anonymous Content are producing with Curtis and McGovern.
Amid the backdrop of the tumultuous times of the early 1920s, the life of a Kansas woman (McGovern) is forever changed when she chaperones a beautiful and talented 15 year-old dancer named Louise Brooks to New York for the summer. One of them is eager to fulfill her destiny of silent film stardom; the other hopes to unearth the mysteries of her past.
UPDATE: Netflix To End ‘Downton Abbey’ Streaming As Amazon Snatches Exclusive Rights To Latest Season
UPDATE: Deadline has learned that beginning July 1st, Netflix will cease streaming of season 1 of Downton Abbey. Hulu will continue to offer seasons 1 and 2 until an unspecified time near the end of 2013, at which point all streaming rights will belong solely to Amazon. When asked for comment, Netflix referred Deadline to statements made last week after their 2012 earnings were announced. The service stated it would “forgo or not renew content that doesn’t optimize for engagement and cost efficiency across the available content choices within the constraints of our budget.”
PREVIOUS: Seasons 1 and 2 are already available on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service, and the company says the PBS drama is its most watched series ever. Now Amazon says that it will have exclusive streaming rights to the current season of the Carnival/MASTERPIECE co-produced series beginning June 18 — and will remain the sole streaming home for the series for next season and, if it’s produced, the one after. Later this year, it says, “no digital subscription service other than Prime Instant Video will offer any seasons of Downton Abbey.” Amazon Prime shows are available to people who pay $79 a year for a combination of services including the ability to have many products that Amazon sells delivered without an additional charge.
At a TCA panel yesterday, PBS president Paula Kerger said, “We’re not punishing our viewers.” The comment was made with regard to the lag time between when Downton Abbey airs on the UK’s ITV and in the U.S. on PBS. Well, here’s good news for folks who can’t get enough fast enough of the Crawley clan – and for those trying to avoid the spoilers that have been whizzing around the Web. Apple said yesterday that North American subscribers to iTunes who purchase a season pass for the show will get a jump on the last three episodes of season three before they air on PBS. The episodes, including the special season finale which airs on February 17, will be available for download on iTunes beginning January 29. The period drama’s second season was the best-selling TV series on iTunes last year and the exclusive season three Downton preview is said to be a first for the company.
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
PBS president Paula Kerger said today that the pubcaster has considered the idea of synching the U.S. broadcast schedule of its hit series Downton Abbey with the earlier British schedule on ITV, but so far it has not found that such a change would best suit the American viewers (she added that in Britain the show airs with commercials; in the U.S. it does not). The idea, she told critics during a PBS session at TCA, has been to avoid pitting Downton against the glut of new fall programming on U.S. networks and cable channels. She compared the experience to watching the Olympics: “People knew the outcome but watched them every night,” she said.
A questioner pointed out that American viewers accept the Olympic broadcast schedule but find it “annoying.” “We’re not punishing our viewers,” Kerger responded with a laugh. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure we are putting the series in a place where the most people can find it.”