Downton Abbey: A Cord Cutter Case Study

And now for something more cerebral than “Watching Blacked out NFL Games with Internet Streaming” lets look at how a cord cutter might deal with a very popular show from PBS: Downton Abbey. If you listen to NPR you know they’ve been publicizing the hell out of upcoming season 3 with live interviews of the upstairs downstairs actors. And I got to hand it to them, this show (which I’ve yet to watch) sounds pretty interesting. What sounds intriguing was the concept that this was a time (early 20th century) when people were just content to be the best at whatever station they were born into, be it master, servant, butler etc.

But I digress. Say you are a cord cutter anxious to tune in to this show, both past and present seasons. What are your choices? Our quick min-survey finds:

1. Put up an Antenna

Yep, PBS was actually one of the first networks to start broadcasting in HD. And they have stations in most major cities. So if you want to see season 3, traditional over the air is the easiest way. I did a quick search using my own local KPBS station and see all the upcoming season 3 listings.  Unfortunately no reruns of past seasons show up. I give PBS some credit for providing very clean easy to read  search results:


2. Get Netflix

Here I have some luck with reruns. It appears Season 1 is available. And someone living here has already put in my queue.

Results for Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey2010TV-PG1 SeriesExposing the snobbery and machinations of a disappearing class system, this series chronicles the elite Crawley family and their assorted servants.
Hugh BonnevilleJim CarterElizabeth McGovern
TV ShowsBritish TV ShowsTV DramasBritish TV Dramas
This show is:

In Instant Queue 

But Where is Downton Abbey season 2?

OK so I have season 1 and 3 taken care of. What about season 2 ? A quick google search shows PBS will be airing just a couple of them before  switching over to season 3. I check out HULU free which tricks me. It lists all of the season 2 shows but when I click on one I get
“This Video is only available with Hulu Plus”

OK so here is something the much maligned Hulu Plus can offer. But Hulu Plus is $8/month and I’m not paying that just to watch Downton Abbey.

3. Amazon Instant Video vs iTunes

Amazon offers Downton Abbey Season 2 either at $1.99 per episode or $2.99 for HD. Or I can buy a DVD of the entire season for $22.93

iTunes is comparable but a little better deal on the entire season at $19.99 and offers only the HD episodes at the same $2.99.


4. Other Methods

Unlike live sports this content is available from multiple and legal OTT providers. Yes I know all about torrents and would not consider them when relatively low cost pay per view is available.

Just for fun I took a look at eBay and see quite a bit of activity but mostly the final price ends up, at best, a buck or two off the regular retail.

The British site offers these as rentals for 1.29 Euro ($1.70).  A little savings.  I’m not sure if you’d run into a proxy requirement (the free episodes won’t play to the US). More interesting I learned from this review in Slate, is that the US is behind the UK in broadcast.

Other ideas?  Let us know in the comments below.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Downton Abbey: A Cord Cutter Case Study

  1. Tim McGlynn says:

    Both Season 1 & 2 are available in HD with Amazon Prime

    • Augustine says:

      That’s right, I watched the first two seasons at no extra charge at Amazon Prime. Yes, I confess to getting hooked, though I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch the third season, preferring to waiting for it at Amazon.

      Honestly, it’s a period soap opera. But it’s so well made and acted, that, with all the quaint country British society of a century ago, it feels as watching Dickens.

  2. Greg says:

    Thanks Tim. I take it you are a member of prime? Do you use that to get the free shipping?

  3. Tim McGlynn says:

    I do use the free shipping, but watch a lot of prime videos. There’s some overlap with Netflix, but if the video’s available on Amazon, I’ll watch that because it will almost always be in Dolby Digital 5.1 on my PS3, whereas Netflix it’s hit or miss.

    • Augustine says:

      However, I have to say that having a DSL connection from one of the established monopolies, the Netflix client is much better delivering the best resolution without hiccups over Amazon’s.

      • Greg says:

        Interesting. Amazon runs something called AWS, a cloud network so big that multiple commercial customers share it. And when that went down on Dec 24 it brought Netflix with it.

  4. Greg says:

    Hmm. I use Amazon a ton for shopping but Netflix for video. $79/year is actually less than Netflix. Seems like a good future post: Amazon vs Netflix video library

  5. Bob says:

    The streaming site Cokeandpopcorn has it, great in that pop ups get blocked even on my Logitech Revue, and you can adjust stream speed for slower connections.

  6. Bob says:

    They also have season 3.

    • Greg says:

      Hi Bob,
      So yes I was able to find my way to season 2 episode 1, along with a a couple porn site pop-ups and closing some others.

      What could be the original source of the streams? Do you think they are legal?


  7. I will be watching the next day from the PBS app on one of my iOS devices Airplayed to either my iMac or my TV. I recently did it with Call The Midwife and it worked just fine. I can’t wait for the Downton series 3!!!

  8. Greg says:

    So the PBS app eliminates the need to DVR the event ?

    • Yes, it does. It’s awesome! I never watched or DVRed PBS on TV in the past despite being a fan. It just couldn’t compete with Sunday night shows on other networks. PBS has Sunday night shows ready to watch very early Monday morning. I’ve watched sometimes as early as 5am CST.

      • Greg says:

        Really? I’m more of a late night watcher with a cold beer or glass of wine kind of viewer. Monday morning I’m just preparing for the shock of another long work week.

  9. Tim McGlynn says:

    Greg, you can sign up for a 1 month free trial of Amazon Prime and stream all of season 2.

Leave a Reply