Why ‘Downton Abbey’ Will Keep Airing in January in the U.S.

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TCA 2014: PBS president Paula A. Kerger says “Sherlock” experiment probably won’t affect “Downton”

“Downton Abbey” will probably continue to premiere each new season on PBS in January, months after it airs in the U.K., PBS president Paula A. Kerger said Monday.

This season, PBS premiered the third season of “Sherlock” just a few weeks after it aired on BBC One. But that probably won’t lay the groundwork for a similarly condensed space between the British and U.S. airings of “Downton,” PBS’s most-watched show.

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“I would say standing here today it would be very difficult for me to imagine it being anything other than where it has been,” Kerger told TheWrap at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

Kerger pointed to several reasons for keeping “Downton” in January, despite the risk of American fans hearing about spoilers from across the Atlantic.

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The January premiere date allows “Downton” to avoid competing with other fall premieres. It is also easier for the show’s cast to do American media appearances in January, when they don’t need to promote the show in the U.K. And Americans have become accustomed to the January return.

“I think that it’s become a bit of a tradition after the holidays to come together to watch ‘Downton,'” Kerger said. “We didn’t have quite that same tradition with Sherlock.”

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She also noted that “Downton” has made strong gains over four seasons.

“The great audience and the audience build over the three years I think argues pretty strongly to keep the January time frame,” she said.