After years of period intrigue, Downton Abbey has come to an end. If you've been an ardent follower since the beginning, you’ll probably want to find out how it ended. If you're just experiencing it for the first time, you'll probably want to watch start-to-finish, surfacing only briefly for sleep, tea and cucumber sandwiches. Downton Abbey is not too hard to find online, although accessing it can be a little arcane — or a little expensive, depending on where you look.
PBS stands for Public Broadcasting Service, and it prides itself on providing high-quality programming free of charge. You could, then, be forgiven for thinking that it would offer all Downton Abbey episodes for free, but this is not the case. Accessing episodes through the PBS website is possible, but requires quite a bit of money and effort.
Free episodes rotate frequently, so it's not a reliable way to watch the whole series. Furthermore, the PBS app offers only the free episodes, even if you subscribe to PBS Passport, a $60 per year donation that lets you access a wide variety of previously broadcast content. (This is not a subscription fee, as PBS is a nonprofit organization).
If you want to watch Downton Abbey on your mobile device, streaming device or game console, a PBS Passport will not help you do it. On the other hand, you can indeed watch the entirety of Downton Abbey through the PBS Masterpiece website. If you have a good screen-mirroring device, or a media server app such as PlayOn, you'll be able to watch the show on a TV.
If you're starting Downton Abbey from the beginning and want to watch it on almost any platform, Amazon Prime Video is your best bet. An Amazon Prime subscription ($99 per year) will grant you unlimited access to the first five seasons on computers, set-top boxes, game consoles, smart TVs and anything else that can run the Amazon Video app.
Amazon Prime has only two real drawbacks: The first is that Season 6 is not (yet) available through a Prime subscription, so you'll have to dish out extra money for it (see below). The other potential snag is that Amazon Prime requires a yearly, not monthly, subscription. If you blow through every episode of Downton Abbey in a month or two, you'll have to find something else to watch to make your subscription worthwhile, which may not be that hard considering Amazon's plethora of original programming. For instance, Man in the High Castle and Mozart in the Jungle may be enough to make the $99 worthwhile. Especially when you factor in the other Prime perks, such as free two-day shipping and access to Amazon Music and Amazon's e-book lending library.
Downton Abbey is also available via the usual a-la-carte video suspects, if you prefer to buy the episodes and own them outright. Amazon Video, Google Play, Apple, Microsoft and Vudu sell every episode of the period drama in both SD and HD versions. You can generally expect to pay $3 per HD episode, or $20 per nine-episode season.