The BBC’s “Sherlock” franchise has been a huge worldwide hit, broadcast in more than 200 territories and turning Benedict Cumberbatch into an unlikely sex symbol.
Perhaps nowhere can the worldwide nature of this success be seen better than on Youku, a popular Chinese video hosting service. The long-awaited first episode of the third season appeared on the service just a couple of hours after it first appeared on British television on New Year’s Day, according to the BBC. According to Youku’s internal metrics, the episode has been viewed almost seven million times, and the series has a very favourable rating of 9.5:
Putting that in context, in the U.K. the show was reportedly watched by almost 10 million when shown on the country’s biggest TV channel, BBC One, at primetime.
“Sherlock”‘s success in China is so big than when British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the country and opened an account on the social network Weibo, he was reportedly besieged by question’s about the show. Chinese viewers are not immune to the sex appeal of Cumberbatch either — Foreign Policy’s Liz Carter even found a rich seam in gay Sherlock Holmes fanfiction in China.
American readers may be left with a bigger question, however — how come Chinese viewers can watch the show now and they have to wait til January 19? For that, you have to look at the piracy heavy world of Chinese media. As Gwynn Guilford at Quartz points out, it makes more sense for the BBC to upload the episode officially to Youku before the illegal streaming sites get their own version up.
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