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. READ MORE »
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.”
BBC Diversity Report: Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals “Still Relatively Invisible” On UK TV; ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Downton Abbey’ Praised
A BBC review of the portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people across UK programming says, “the vast majority of audiences are comfortable” with their depiction. But some participants called for the corporation to be “bolder and more creative.” There is “a sense” from experts that “LGB people are still relatively invisible, especially lesbian women and bisexual people,” the BBC said. The report (read it here) surveyed about 3,500 viewers along with members of organizations including actors’ union, Equity, and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation.
Still, shows including the BBC’s Doctor Who and ITV drama Downton Abbey, in which footman Thomas has struggled with his sexuality, were praised for their inclusion of gay characters. A member of the anti-LGBT hate crime charity Galop noted, “Doctor Who quite often has a gay character in it but it isn’t always an issue or the plotline – it’s just incidental which has been quite nice.” The area of programming that was most criticized was News and Current Affairs. The way that issues are discussed on news programs is felt to be “unnecessarily and deliberately confrontational, giving too much time to homophobic viewpoints.”
The third season of Downton Abbey premieres in the U.S. on PBS on January 6. The show concluded its third run last month in the UK with an overall average of 9.7M viewers to make it the period drama’s …
Popular British shows like Downton Abbey and Sherlock are closer to getting new tax breaks for shooting at home. The Treasury today published draft legislation outlining a 25% tax credit for qualifying “high-end” TV productions, animated programs and video games. It has also expanded the scheme to cover TV documentaries and responded to certain industry concerns over terminology and eligibility. Largely based on the Film Tax Relief scheme which has provided about £800M in rebates to 825 movies since 2007, the new law will be based on meeting a British cultural test. Co-productions made under an internationally recognized treaty may also be eligible. The UK hopes the incentives will stem runaway production and entice players like Disney and HBO to make more of their premium shows in Britain.
The draft published today (read it here) says the animation rebate will be available to projects where animation makes up 51% or more (down from the originally proposed 75%) of total production cost. It also defines “high-end” productions as programs that cost £1M or more per “programme hour.” But, the term “programme hour” proved ornery and so the government has clarified its position that an “hour” is based on slot time as opposed to actual running time. The law will also exclude certain genres like advertising, discussion programs and news or
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes has signed on to write and produce another period drama, this time for NBC. Fellowes’ The Gilded Age, which has a script commitment with significant penalty attached, is described as a sweeping epic in the style of Downton Abbey. It depicts the world of the millionaire titans of 1880s New York, chronicling the lives of the princes of the American Renaissance and the vast fortunes they made — and spent. “This was a vivid time with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king,” Fellowes said.
Downton Abbey‘s UK broadcaster ITV reported its interim results today with the group’s external revenue up 4% to £1.57B ($2.49B). Non-net advertising revenue was up 15% to £730M ($1.16B), driven by production arm ITV Studios, maker of such programs as Hell’s Kitchen and the upcoming Mr. Selfridge with Jeremy Piven. ITV Studios is expected to turn a profit of over £100M ($158.7M) for the year “and the number of new commissions and recommissions already secured for 2013 gives us confidence that there will continue to be good underlying growth in the Studios business,” boss Adam Crozier noted.
Continuing its five-year transformation plan, the company says total cost savings this year will be about £30M ($47.6M), or £10M ($15.87M) ahead of target. The advertising market has been “broadly flat,” Crozier said.
‘Downton Abbey’ Season 3 Is Highest-Rated In UK; 2-Hour Movie To Air At Christmas; Questions Linger On Fourth Season
Downton Abbey ended its official Season 3 run on the UK’s ITV Sunday night with an average 10.1M viewers and a 39.1% share. The score marked a high for the season which had previously peaked in the overnights on October 21. With an overall average of 9.7M viewers, the third season has become the highest-rated for the period drama – Season One averaged 8.4M and Season Two had 9.5M. The show now take a hiatus from British screens until Christmas Day when a 2-hour special will air (though I’m told it will not have a holiday theme). That follows a similar pattern to last year when a Christmas movie tied up some loose ends at the Grantham estate. However, there’s no plan this year to screen the movie for local media as much of the cast including Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Jessica Brown Findlay and Lesley Nichol will be in the U.S. on a press tour ahead of Season 3′s January 6 PBS debut.
Questions continue to swirl around the possibility of a fourth season as core actors including Stevens see their stars rise. He’s currently on Broadway opposite Jessica Chastain in The Heiress and recently told The Wall Street Journal, “I think we’ll have to wait and see really,” about a fourth season. “You do feel a certain obligation to shows that raise your profile like Downton has. But there are definitely other exciting opportunities out there.” Downton creator Julian Fellowes told me in May that he envisioned the show going on for at least four seasons. He’s now commented to The Telegraph, “I think I’d be surprised if there was not a fourth series.” ITV, which has the final word on whether another season goes forward, ordered Season 3 at just about this time last year.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Eureka Acquires ‘Magnificent Eleven’, ‘Downton Abbey’ UK Ratings Down, French Directors Visit US, ’7 Boxes’ Honored, Status Quo Docu
Eureka Finds ‘The Magnificent Eleven’
Eureka Distribution has acquired UK theatrical rights to The Magnificent Eleven, a modernization of classic The Magnificent Seven by co-writers Pete and John Adams in collaboration with Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh. Directed by Jeremy Wooding, the new story follows a band of Brits and one American (played by the original film’s Robert Vaughn) in London’s East End where the heroes are an amateur soccer team that reluctantly comes together to save a Tandoori restaurant from local thugs. Keith Allen and Philip Rhys also star. Plumcourt Production produced for the Adams’ Angry Badger Pictures in co-production with Filmgate Films and the Swedish regional film board and in association with Skyline Entertainment, Premiere Picture and Pure Film Productions. International sales are handled by Stealth Media Group. Eureka is looking at a March release.
Phone-Hacking Allegations Hit Mirror Newspapers
Until yesterday, phone-hacking claims had been limited to papers owned by News Corp.’s UK press arm. Now, Britain’s Mirror Group Newspapers may be brought into the scandal as four individuals line up cases against its titles. Among those seeking damages are former manager of the English soccer team, Sven Goran Eriksson; a former nanny to David Beckham’s children and a TV soap actress. Eriksson’s claims against the Daily Mirror are believed to stem from a period when CNN host Piers Morgan was editor. Morgan gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics late last year at which time he said he had no knowledge or reason to believe there was any phone hacking at the paper during his tenure. The claims against Mirror papers allege “breach of confidence and misuse of private information,” in relation to the “interception and/or misuse of mobile phone voicemail messages and/or the interception of telephone accounts.” The attorney for the claimants, Mark Lewis, said no particulars had been filed, but that relevant dates relating to alleged activity were submitted to the court, The Guardian reports. A spokesman for MGN parent, Trinity Mirror, said: “We have no comment. We are unaware action has been taken at the High Court.”
Downton Abbey Hits New Season High In UK Overnights, Debuts In NZ
Downton Abbey was up again Sunday night on the UK’s ITV. The sixth episode of Season 3 hit an overnight ratings high of 9.69M viewers during the 9pm hour. That score, a 36.6% share, beat the season’s previous top performer which drew 9.66M viewers in the overnights on Oct. 1. Factoring in Sunday’s delayed viewings, Downton drew just over 10M viewers. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, season 3 of the show kicked off this weekend on free-to-air web Prime drawing top ratings with just over 350K viewers.
Downton Abbey became a political hot potato in Greece this week when public broadcaster NET cut a Season 1 scene in which scheming footman Thomas Barrow kisses a visiting duke. The country’s main opposition party, Syriza, released a statement calling the omission “an obvious case of censorship, an extreme act of homophobia and discrimination which unfortunately, after what has been happening recently, we cannot characterize as unprecedented.” The Downton controversy comes days after members of Parliament from the right-wing Golden Dawn party clashed with Athens police while protesting a showing of the Terrence McNally play Corpus Christi, which depicts Jesus and the Apostles as gay. NET contends the Downton scene was not censored and instead
After its first two episodes of the new season drew softer-than-normal numbers, Downton Abbey bounced back on Sunday with ratings that would make even the Dowager Countess crack a smile. Episode three of season three pulled in 9.66M …
Call it The Courtship Of Mary’s Mother And Father. Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes told an industry audience at a BAFTA Screenwriters’ Lecture this week that he’s mulling a prequel to the hit period drama. Talking about a possible book, he said it would focus on how the Earl and Countess of Grantham first met. “I do actually have an idea of doing a prequel of the courtship of Robert and Cora, when all those American heiresses were arriving in London… They had a slightly troubled courtship, because she was in love with him before they married, as we know, and he married her entirely for her money.” He added, “I sort of feel there’s something quite nice in there because he’s a decent cove, and so he feels rather guilty about this.” A person close to Downton tells Deadline this is the first they’ve heard of such a project and that Fellowes does not currently have a publishing deal for a prequel book. The characters, currently portrayed by Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, would be played by younger actors in any potential show. However, Fellowes noted that “Any other books or plays or films should follow after the end of the current television show.” In Cannes earlier this year, Fellowes told me he envisioned the show going on to at least a fourth season.