Why First Lady Michelle Obama shouldn’t have watched season three of Downton Abbey before it aired in the U.S.

By Natan Edelsburg 

Earlier this fall, we wrote about a huge problem facing the industry that social TV is bringing to light. In “Have you already watched Downton Abby Season three?“, we discussed how delaying launches of seasons is too hard on fans who can too easily see spoilers on every major social platform (Downton season three already aired in the U.K. but won’t premiere in the U.S. until next month). In November, The Sun revealed that First Lady Michelle Obama asked ITV for the new season and got it. Even Stephen Colbert poked fun at this the other week when the cast was in town promoting the show. Why isn’t the TV industry upset at the First Lady’s impatience? Why is she allowed to watch but not the rest of country? Here’s why the First Lady did the wrong thing by requesting the third season early.

Why PBS should be upset with the First Lady:

PBS, the network that airs Downton in the U.S. has done an extraordinary job at unleashing the amazingness of the series to the U.S. market for the last two years. As the show grows in popularity, TV pirates get hungry and are not willing to wait. PBS is in a tough position. They recognize that times are changing, but also know that launching the series in January will get more viewers because of the competitive market. At a recent event in New York City, MASTERPIECE (the PBS program that runs Downton) executive producer Rebecca Eaton answered the time delay question very honestly and openly. Watch her answer in this clip (and yes that’s yours truly about to ask the next question behind her).

The First Lady is basically telling PBS, I don’t care about all of your efforts, I’m going to watch it early anyway. She owes them an apology.

Why Downton Abbey fans in the U.S. should be upset with the First Lady:

For the fans that haven’t pirated the show and are happy to wait for PBS, this is a huge slap in the face to them. Many could easily ask a savvy friend for access but respect the unfortunate reality. For the fans that didn’t wait, the First Lady is communicating that what they did is okay and should be championed.  Only, she didn’t mean to do that and send a message, she just wanted to use her influence to get the show. Watch this fan from the same Downton event in New York who clearly doesn’t even realize that watching the show on the Internet isn’t so kosher.

What can we learn from this?

The TV industry needs to change this year and join the global box office and publishing cycle in releasing more content instantly worldwide. In the meantime there are definitely way more important issues that we should be throwing at the White House. Downton season three premieres on PBS on January 6th (and the end of season three, the Christmas Special, will air in the U.K. on Tuesday). PBS is already kicking of social TV experiences for their endless fans. On December 26th a sneak peak of the new season (10 minutes) will be available to their Facebook fans.