So you're a Downton Abbey addict. I can understand. I am, too. Given that Season 4 just premiered to 9.5 million U.K. viewers, you have two options. One of them will make you immensely happy but an evil criminal. The other will make you a sanctimonious, law-abiding citizen who will be Downton Abbey-free until January 2014.
I know which one I'm choosing.
There are ways—some easy, some hard—to watch British broadcasts from the U.S., but the real question is why we're being made to wait at all.
Yes, I'm A Criminal
If you live in the U.K. and pay your TV tax, you can watch ITV and BBC programming for free. If you live in the U.S., you can watch many of the same programs for free, but on a time-delayed basis. In the case of Downton Abbey, millions of Britons happily watched it last week. Millions of Americans arguably would have been happy to pay to watch it with them, but were blocked by broadcast rights and some television exec's decision as to how best to monetize Downton Abbey.
Except that this isn't really about monetization. They're giving the show away free to PBS viewers. They're just making us wait six months to get it.
Six months... of all those Brits gleefully filling Facebook and Twitter with talk of Mary's baby, Lord Grantham, etc. I'm not going to wait. Neither is Laura Stampler of Time. Or a host of mommy blogs (here and here).
Can't Wait? You Needn't
I'll let the blogs above tell you how to set up a VPN to spoof a U.K. IP address. Or you can simply use Get iPlayer Automator to download the video files each week after the program airs in the U.K. No, you won't be watching it live, and you'll have to watch it on your computer unless you move the show to your tablet or phone. You could also use your TV if you're using AppleTV, Roku or something similar.
But you'll be watching it. And perhaps you'll then discover all those other BBC and ITV shows friends have raved about.
The irony is that I have bought every season, even after watching it before the rest of my American friends. It's not about getting the show for free. It's about getting it when my friends in the U.K. do. Given the special relationship that supposedly exists between the two countries, it seems it's the least ITV could do to make Downton Abbey available to me without stooping to such dastardly tactics.
Alas! No. So I'll download it now, watch it now, and pay for it the second they let me.