Channel One Russia, the broadcaster at the centre of the online leak of the final episode of Sherlock series four, has admitted that it may have been hacked “by an external third party”.
The broadcaster, which holds the rights to air Sherlock in Russia, released a statement today apologising for the breach which is widely believed to have emanated from Russia.
It says: “Channel One Russia has been cooperating with BBC Worldwide from the moment we were alerted to the appearance of the leaked episode and we are doing everything in our power to determine the source of the breach. Initial investigations suggest our content system was compromised by an unauthorised external third party.
“Channel One Russia will share the results of our investigation with the media as soon as it has concluded. Channel One Russia would like to apologise for any inconvenience this leak has caused.”
The statement comes after a Russian-language version of Sherlock episode three, The Final problem, appeared online on Saturday, featuring a three-second continuity announcement identifying it as having originated from Channel One.
BBC Worldwide, which sells the BBC’s content overseas, said it had “initiated a full investigation” into the leak, which analysts suggested could have been deliberately orchestrated to damage the British broadcaster.
A spokesman said: “BBC Worldwide takes breaches of our stringent content security protocols very seriously and we have initiated a full investigation into how this leak has occurred.”
There has been speculation that the leak may have been politically motivated as a possible retaliation to the expansion of the BBC World Service’s Russian language output and also against what are regarded in Russia as punitive measures taken against Russia’s English language broadcaster RT by British regulators and banks.