I've noticed that there seems to be a difference in the way that television is shown during the Christmas / New Year period in the UK vs USA.

Here in the UK, the schedules are packed with new (often Christmas specials) of the best the channels can muster - especially on Christmas day and the surrounding days. Meanwhile, it appears that in America all good TV shows go on a few week long break, coming back in the new year - their Christmas 'specials' seem happen a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Why the difference?

  • 1
    Ratings. The US obviously believes that no one watches TV over Christmas.
    – Paulie_D
    Dec 23, 2016 at 0:27
  • @Paulie_D I wouldn't assume that such companies would do anything based on "guesses" or "beliefs"; I bet they've got the numbers to back up such decisions.
    – BCdotWEB
    Feb 21, 2017 at 22:49

3 Answers 3


Cultural differences between countries (in the case mentioned in the question UK and the US) means there's a difference in what people do during the holiday season, and TV channels plan their schedule accordingly.

Apparently British people are more likely to spend time in front of the TV than Americans during the Christmas/New Year period.


In the UK, "Christmas specials" are usually considered to be separate from seasons (which we usually call series), which otherwise air in the space of a few weeks per year because they often only have about 6 episodes each. A fan of such a show will look forward to a rare inter-season treat.

In the US, a show typically airs 20+ episodes from September to May, and every episode ever made is considered part of a specific season. Since Christmas episodes are mid-season episodes, there is no pressure on them to tide fans over during a long inter-season lull.


Americans love to go on Holiday. Especially American actors. Christmas time is reserved for the showing of classic TV shows (i.e. I Love Lucy specials, Holiday-themed episodes aired close to the season, A Charlie Brown Christmas, etc...) and classic movies (you can't escape an airing of A Christmas Story or It's A Wonderful Life if you tried...).

Once the Holidays are over and actors return from vacation with their families, they resume filming new episodes.

  • Are you suggesting that British actors don't like spending the Christmas holidays with friends and family?
    – Oliver_C
    Dec 23, 2016 at 21:06
  • 1
    And TV shows are rarely live, so it doesn't really matter if the actors go on holiday during this season. Dec 27, 2016 at 9:24

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