Originally Posted by Connemara
I don't get it. Is there some contractual hindrance? Otherwise, why wouldn't PBS show it at the same time?
(In full disclosure - my previous career was 27 years in broadcasting public media and the last two years of it managing a distribution relationship -not TV- between the US and the BBC)
This summary is my edit from comments made earlier in the year by "...Denise Martin of Vulture reported on why PBS waits so long to air its most popular show, which is a co-production of the British Carnival Films and PBS's Masterpiece. While PBS programming chief Beth Hoppe told Martin that execs were "absolutely considering" a simultaneous airing, she made it even more clear that the delay wouldn't end any time soon. Why? 1) People still watched; 2) the fall is already crowded with all the other networks' new shows, making it harder for PBS to compete for attention, and 3) PBS has to edit the UK version because ITV is a commercial network—and doing that more quickly would cost more money that public broadcasting probably doesn't have to spend in the first place."
Now, speaking as a former "somewhat" insider - this is all true. The biggest issue being the editing and repackaging for the US broadcast (for time, content, LANGUAGE etc etc). It's not a quick nor inexpensive process. Additionally- all the edits must then be approved by the original producers.
The competitive Fall season does matter- and with serial/long-form gaining traction (like Breaking Bad) slotting is very important. Downton plays very well in the Winter slot that is otherwise neglected by many networks.
Trust me- as global as you may think we are... broadcast rights in the digital age are a very, very long, lugubrious, difficult, expensive and not all that thankful of a process.