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Apple scoops PBS on Downton Abbey episodes, but PBS is cool with it

Date January 15, 2013

NEW YORK (TheWrap.com) - Apple is making the entire third season of "Downton Abbey" available on iTunes before every episode airs on PBS - and that's just fine with PBS.

Fans who buy a season pass on iTunes beginning January 29 will get to see three episodes before they air on PBS. The Season 3 finale airs February 17.

But PBS CEO Paula Kerger isn't worried that viewers will watch the show online, then tune out PBS. In fact, she says, Apple isn't the only place Americans can see "Downton" before they can see it on her network.

"You can also buy the DVD sets. They're being shipped at the end of January, and the DVD sets and Apple are going up at the same time," Kerger told TheWrap. "I think that for people who are really passionate and want to have it, it's a great thing."

Kerger says she hopes more viewers will discover "Downton" on whatever format they like best - and then watch it on PBS next season.

"At the end of the day, my interest is just in seeing it get to the widest possible audience, and there are people that would pick it up on Apple that may not pick it up anywhere else," she said.

The first episode of the third season premiered to a record 7.9 million viewers earlier this month. Many of those viewers, no doubt, caught up on the previous seasons online or through DVD viewing.

"Downton" airs in the U.K. in the fall but on PBS in January, which means PBS viewers must shield themselves from spoilers. That has led to some grumbling from American fans.

But Kerger said airing the show in January allows the show to get more attention domestically than it might otherwise receive in the crowded fall season.

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