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The case for and against delaying "Sherlock"

By Alan Pergament

I guess I don't have the investigatory instincts of Sherlock Holmes.

Since my blog last week explaining WNED-TV's reason for delaying the third season of "Sherlock" until 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb.13, I've received several emails protesting the decision.

Many readers aren't buying WNED Station Manager Ron Santora's decision to replay the little-watched first season and the second season on Thursdays now and later air the third season episodes at a more reasonable start time of 9 p.m. than at 10 p.m. on three straight Sundays.

The majority of emails came from Canada, which surprised me. I hadn't realized I had that many Canadian readers. The number of "likes" the initial blog received also surprised me since not that many emailers liked what WNED is doing.

Canadians have an extra reason to be unhappy with WNED's decision. While tech-savvy Western New Yorkers can watch the episodes on the website pbs.org right after they air in the States, Canadians can’t do that.

Santora explained Tuesday that it isn't WNED's fault. Canadians can't see it on the website because PBS doesn't buy international streaming rights. Santora also defended the now controversial decision to delay airing the three new episodes starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes.

"It is not that we decided not to carry the program, it is just that we decided to carry it just a little bit later," he said.

I’ve been accused in emails of making light of WNED's delaying tactics. If so, it is because I understand both sides.

I certainly get how annoying it can be when WNED delays running national programs to suit its own schedule. But in the case of "Sherlock," I also buy some of WNED's reasoning.

Before running the new episodes, Santora wanted to give more viewers a chance to see the critically-acclaimed first two seasons. They weren't heavily-watched here. That was especially true of the first season. I thought that was a good idea, though I wondered why WNED didn’t run those nine episodes before season three started on PBS so the local station could have carried them on the national schedule.

"I couldn’t get them on the schedule," said Santora. "We didn’t have the time to do that. We would have had to drop season one."

The strategy appears to be working. Santora calls the current ratings "very good" considering the first series aired twice before. We're not talking huge audiences -- about 10,000 Western New York households now.

I also understood Santora's feeling that many WNYers didn't want to stay up until midnight to watch "Sherlock" Sunday.

However, I later learned that was partly based on inaccurate information. While PBS tells local stations like WNED that the episodes fill two-hour time blocks, they actually run between 94-97 minutes so people could go to bed well before midnight.

Still, 11:35 p.m. or so is a little late for some people on Sundays before the start of the work week. On the other hand, there is this invention called the DVR and many people have them. So if they get tired at 11 p.m. and want to go to bed, they can record the final 35 minutes or so.

Another argument for airing the first of the three new “Sherlock” on the PBS schedule concerned Sunday’s network choices of programs. "Sherlock" had the good fortune to run mostly against repeat episodes of network series or ABC's canceled series "Betrayal." That might have helped "Sherlock" nationally since PBS reported Sunday's episode had an average audience of 4 million nationally, a gain of 25 percent from the season two premiere and 81 percent higher than the PBS audience in the 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. time slot.

However, this Sunday's episode airs opposite the Grammy Awards and the Feb. 2 finale of "Sherlock" on the national PBS schedule has the potential to air near the end of the Denver-Seattle Super Bowl on Fox and its post-game show. Even Canadians might agree that makes WNED’s delaying tactics look a little bit better.

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Drama | New Shows | Television | TV news
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