Fans of Downton Abbey, the long-running U.K. drama about the upstairs and downstairs intrigues of the Crawley family and their servants, may have experienced a shock when the Daily Mirror printed a report that said the show would end after its upcoming sixth season, which is set to air in Britain later this year and in early 2016 in the U.S.
But the show has been plagued by similar rumors for years, as Milk Publicity, the third-party PR firm contracted by ITV to work on Downton, noted in a statement obtained by BuzzFeed News via email. "We have had this speculation for years, since Series 2 in fact."
Milk Publicity's statement went on to clarify specific claims in the Mirror's story, including the assertion that ITV is looking at replacement programs for its lucrative fall Sunday night time slot. "Of course ITV are always looking for other dramas," the statement continued. "We are only on air for eight Sundays in a year, leaving 44 others to fill."
The Mirror further asserted that, because cast members are looking for acting roles and Fellowes needs to focus on his long-gestating NBC project The Gilded Age, Downton is coming to a close at the end of the year. The newspaper quoted an anonymous source who said, "It's an open secret that Downton is ending this year. Some of the actors are keen to let it be known they will be available for work after the summer. Some are interested in the U.S., where Downton is as popular as it is in the U.K."
But many cast members have appeared in multiple other projects while Downton has remained on the air because the actors on the show are only bound by single-year deals (as opposed to U.S. standard multiyear contracts).
"We film for six months of the year, leaving the cast plenty of time to do other work," the Milk Publicity statement also reads. "In fact Hugh [Bonneville] has filmed three different jobs in the time between Series 5 and 6, Michelle [Dockery] has filmed Restless and Non-Stop between different series, Maggie [Smith] and Penelope [Wilton] have filmed the Marigolds etc."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for ITV had no comment on the Mirror's report. "We wouldn't comment on speculative stories about our programmes," the rep said in an email to BuzzFeed News.
In the immortal words of the Dowager Countess:
BuzzFeed U.K. Entertainment Editor Scott Bryan contributed to this report.