UPDATED with Channel One Russia statement: The finale of Sherlock’s 4th season hit a ratings low in the UK on Sunday — by a sliver — but still the all-time smallest overnight score of the series. Titled “The Final Problem,” the episode clocked 5.9M viewers for a 27.2 share on BBC One, winning the 9PM time slot, but falling a touch from last week’s “The Lying Detective.” That episode had pulled in 6M in the overnights for a 27.4 share — although it has since logged a record consolidated uptick (see below). This comes after “The Final Problem” was leaked online in a Russian-language version at the weekend, featuring a continuity announcement linking it to Russia’s Channel One, which airs Sherlock locally. The BBC is looking into the situation.
A spokesperson tells Deadline, “BBC Worldwide takes breaches of our stringent content security protocols very seriously and we have initiated a full investigation into how this leak has occurred.”
Channel One Russia has also weighed in, saying it “has been cooperating with BBC Worldwide from the moment we were alerted to the appearance of the leaked episode and we are doing everything in our power to determine the source of the breach. Initial investigations suggest our content system was compromised by an unauthorized external third party. Channel One Russia will share the results of our investigation with the media as soon as it has concluded. Channel One Russia would like to apologize for any inconvenience this leak has caused.”
Because the leaked episode was reportedly not subtitled in English, it likely had little impact on UK ratings for “The Final Problem.” Those are expected to show a jump when delayed-viewing figures are included (the ep was also screened simultaneously in about 300 UK cinemas which may have pulled some away from their TV sets). Season 4 debut episode, “The Six Thatchers,” ultimately emerged as the most-watched program of the festive period across all channels in the UK. With figures consolidated, it rose from 8.1M to 11.3M viewers and a 37.8 share.
Last week’s “The Lying Detective,” with a creepy-as-hell Toby Jones playing villain Culverton Smith, increased by 3.5M viewers from the overnights to a consolidated 9.53M with a share of 33.6. The BBC notes this is the 3rd strongest time-shift ever for any program on any channel, and the strongest time-shift ever for any program on any channel outside Christmas and New Year’s. Last year’s one-off, Emmy-winning special, “The Abominable Bride’s” drew 11.6M consolidated viewers.
Part of the drop in the overnights certainly has to do with an increase in time-shifting, although this current season of Sherlock has seen divided reaction.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a slightly more sensitive, yet still high-functioning sociopath sleuth, and Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson, “The Final Problem” has been met with mixed response in the UK today. Giving it five stars, The Telegraph calls it “an exhilarating thrill-ride” while other outlets suggest a confusing pull between emotion and action.
Still, earlier Sherlock finales have likewise come in lower than previous installments. In 2014, the Season 3 finale, “His Last Vow,” was the lowest-rated of that run.
“The Final Problem” screened in about 300 UK cinemas on Sunday night and will be released in U.S. theaters tonight and on Wednesday. We will update with box office figures as they become available.
It’s too early to tell if Sherlock will make a return in the future. Cast and creators have expressed a desire to see it continue. Steven Moffat last week told fans and press at a London screening of “The Final Problem” that he was “not planning” on this to be the last episode, while Mark Gatiss said, “we’d love to come back.”