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KCET-Link TV merger: Will 'Borgen' make up for not having 'Downton Abbey?'

Photograph Nick Briggs. +44(0)20.

They aren't Danish and they're on PBS. Downton Abbey is a runaway hit that KCET missed out on when it broke away from the Mother Ship in 2011. But a merger could change KCET's fortunes.

KCET famously ditched PBS several years ago in a dispute about fees. The country's biggest independent TV station has been clobbered financially since then, but it's now attempting to stop the bleeding by merging with Link TV, a San Francisco satellite broadcaster whose CEO told the New York Times that his company, with 33 million DirecTV and Dish Network viewers, has "a bit of a cult following."

The Link TV CEO won't lead the new "independent public transmedia company," according to the KCET release. Al Jerome, who broke KCET away from PBS, will assume that role in the new entity, KCETLink, which will be based in Burbank.

This could be the beginning of KCET trying to solve its programming problem. According the LA Times, the station saw a 41-percent drop in contribution and grant funding in 2011. But what's worse, it missed out on "Downton Abbey," the runaway British hit that's now in its third season. PBS and its affiliates got the show in the U.S. It airs on Orange County's KOCE-TV in Southern California.


Why do some critics despise 'Downton Abbey?'

Photograph Nick Briggs. +44(0)20.

The Season 2 finale of Downton Abbey aired on PBS Masterpiece Classics this Sunday, Feb. 19.

At my house, we just wrapped up Season 2 of the breakout British T.V. hit, "Downton Abbey." Matthew Crawley, heir to the estate and future Earl of Grantham, finally proposed (again) to the luminous Lady Crawley, as 1919 turned into 1920 and gigantic glowing snowflakes blanketed the English countryside. "Downton," which mashes up "Upstairs, Downstairs" with "Atonement" and "Brideshead Revisited," is a finest piece of televise soap you can currently consume in the West. It's addictive, in the way that that these heavy breathing, highly acted British costume dramas are. Americans can't get enough of it.

Not so the English intelligentsia. First Simon Schama, an influential Columbia University historian who once hosted an entire series about the British, laid into "Downton" at the Daily Beast. For Schama, it's personal: