Downton Abbey picks up new Season 4 sponsor

Downton Abbey has a new Season 4 sponsor: Tesco. What else is new in Season 4? Paul Giamatti, another American joins the Downton Abbey cast,

REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Actress Shirley MacLaine in Hollywood in April 2013. MacLaine plays the American countess Cora in Downton Abbey.

Tesco has become the latest British retailer to link-up with television show Downton Abbey, hoping an association with the popular post-Edwardian period drama will boost sales of its premium own-brand food products line.

Britain's biggest grocer said on Friday the "Tesco Finest" range, which consists of over 1,400 products from ready meals to wine, would sponsor Downton Abbey in the first TV sponsorship deal by the range.

In June Tesco posted a drop in quarterly underlying sales in Britain, resuming a trend seen for most of the past three years and raising doubts about its 1 billion pounds ($1.56 billion) turnaround plan despite a host of new initiatives.

The TV sponsorship deal, negotiated by global communications network Initiative on behalf of Tesco and television network ITV , will run throughout Downton Abbey's fourth series which starts in October and involves a sponsorship package across broadcast, mobile and online platforms.

"Downton Abbey is a great brand fit for Tesco Finest," said David Wood, Tesco's UK marketing director.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Last month Marks & Spencer launched a Downton Abbey range of toiletries, sold in traditional post-Edwardian packaging.

The third series of the show, which climaxed with the car crash death of the heir to the Downton estate Matthew Crawley, drew in 12 million viewers and a 40 percent share of Britain's TV audience.

The fourth season of the series will feature the debut of Paul Giamatti, who be appearing in the smash-hit British drama as Harold Levinson, brother of American countess Cora. The brother character has been discussed during the series by Cora and their mother (Shirley Maclaine), but so far had remained off-screen, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

Harold is “free-spirited,” Carnival Films managing director and “Downton” executive producer Gareth Neame said in a statement, and that during the finale of the upcoming season, he and Maclaine will “upset the Granthams’ apple cart.”

“We can't wait to see him work alongside Shirley Maclaine,” Neame said.

“Downton” will be premiering its fourth season in the UK in October and is scheduled to come to America’s PBS stations in January of 2014.

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