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iTunes to Offer DOWNTON ABBEY Season 3 Episodes Ahead of Broadcast

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Deadline reports that Apple is offering fans of the popular Downton Abbey series a chance to view the final three episodes of the show's third season ahead of their broadcast on PBS. The news was revealed at a TCA panel yesterday by PBS president Paula Kerger. "We're not punishing our viewers," she commented about complaints that the 'lag' time between the British and U.S. broadcast of the episodes was just too long.

Yesterday, Apple announced that North American subscribers to iTunes who buy a season pass for the series will have the opportunity to watch the last three episodes of season three before they are broadcast on PBS. The episodes, which will include the special season finale which airs on February 17, will be available for download on iTunes beginning January 29.

Season 2 of the drama ranked as the best-selling TV series on iTunes in 2012. The exclusive airing of the season three episodes on iTunes will mark a first for the company.

Season three wrapped up on ITV in November and was followed by a special episode on Christmas Day. It proved to be the highest-rated of the show's seasons so far. Premiering on PBS on January 6, the series delivered 7.9M viewers, almost doubling the season two PBS premiere.

ITV has ordered a fourth season of the show which will begin production next month. It was just announced yesterday that Maggie Smith would return however popular star Dan Stevens will not reprise his character, Matthew Crawley.

Said PBS Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton, "I hope it goes forever. As long as Julian (Fellowes) can lift a pen, I hope it continues."

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