Downton Abbey was watched by 1.7 million people on Sunday.Television in 2014 is many things to many people.
For some, it’s about bingeing on a favourite show as fast as possible – when House Of Cards season two was released last month, 2 per cent of Netflix subscribers watched all 13 episodes that weekend – for others it’s about recording and watching on a variety of devices when they have time.
And for a stalwart group of traditionalists, it’s still about sitting down in front of the TV when a show goes to air and watching it as the network intends. With the growth of fast-tracking, piracy, downloads and more, that last group might be dwindling, but they are still there and have caught the attention of network programmers who have a pretty good idea which shows they watch and how long they’ll wait to see them.
Downton Abbey season four is a good example. The series went to air in Britain last year, was screened in the US in January and had been available as a DVD box-set for months.
But it is only getting to air here now because Seven took a punt that the target audience wouldn’t bother downloading or buying discs.
And last week they were proved right when the series return was watched by 1.7 million people.
”The shows that get illegally downloaded tend to be more younger skewing, cult-y shows and (Downton) doesn’t fall into that category,” said Seven’s head of programming, Angus Ross. ”It was the same for Revenge when we launched it. We didn’t fast-track and it was the highest rated show in, I think, six or seven years. It’s a case-by-case proposition.”
Which means for Downton and a few other series, fans still watching it as Seven puts it to air will have to stay off Twitter and avoid the spoilers for at least the foreseeable future. That’s particularly important here, with a huge storyline about to unfold at the Abbey.
And despite the fact it’s a twist that’s been common knowledge to anyone who really wanted to know, Seven’s betting it’ll still be a surprise to its Downton audience.