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TCA: ‘Downton Abbey’ Returning January 4, PBS Chief Paula Kerger Says

By | Tuesday July 22, 2014 @ 12:08pm PDT

TCA: ‘Downton Abbey’ Returning January 4, PBS Chief Paula Kerger SaysDownton Abbey’s fifth season will debut on January 4, PBS chief Paula Kerger said this morning. She boasted the fourth season was up 16% year over year — among the reasons PBS will not consider an airdate that more closely coincides with the British play-pattern — and that the Masterpiece franchise within which Downton Abbey airs is up 24%. “We’re extremely proud of this growth and continue to focus on Sunday night drama,” she told TV critics at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2014.

As for Sherlock, Kerger said PBS did not yet have word as to when it would be ready for air. “Because it’s coming from our partners in the UK, we have to wait to know when it will be finished,” Kerger said. “But, whenever it comes we’ll put it in a wonderful place and we know the next season is going to be terrific,” she added.

Likewise, Kerger said she had no airdate for the return of Mr. Selfridge, starring Jeremy Piven. That franchise’s renewal for a third season was announced by its British producer in February, saying only that it would air in 2015. Read More »

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TCA: PBS Chief Paula Kerger Announces ‘Vicious’ Premiere Date, Teases Ken Burns Country Music Docu, Talks ‘Downton Abbey’

By | Monday January 20, 2014 @ 12:19pm PST

TCADeadlinePBS has announced the premiere date of the Britcom Viciousstarring Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as a gay couple who have been together nearly half a century. The six-part series, which PBS acquired from Shine International in October, will air on Sundays and premiere July 6 at 10:30 PM. Meanwhile, Jacobi’s drama Last Tango In Halifax has been ordered for a second season, returning June 29, PBS chief Paula Kerger2014 Winter TCA Tour - Day 12 announced this morning at TCA. Also unveiled: Ken Burns is working on a a documentary series about country music — though it won’t air until 2018, Kerger said this morning. Country Music will follow its evolution of over the course of the 20th century as it “eventually emerged to become America’s music,” PBS claimed in its announcement.

And, PBS will never, ever air Downton Abbey seasons closer to its UK run, Kerger indicated — hopefully putting a stake in that debate for press tours ever after. Kerger cited this month’s Season 4  debut audience –  10.2 million viewers, which was a 22% jump compared to the Season 3 opener (7.9 million), which 2014 Winter TCA Tour - Day 12itself had been a leap from the series Season 2 launch crowd of 4.2 mil. Downton is PBS’ highest rated drama ever. ”It’s become a bit of tradition after the holidays to come together to watch Downton,” Kerger said happily. “The audience build over the years…argues to keep the January time frame,” she said.  And, of course, a fall launch coinciding with the UK’s Downton season would put it in the teeth of the commercial broadcast network’s fall-season rollout, which, she noted, TV critics in the room had criticized PBS for doing in the past. Not to mention that the series’ UK broadcaster determines its debut date not terribly long before it actually happens — no weeks and weeks of promotions, as is the norm in the U.S. PBS cannot upstage the show in the UK. Read More »

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TCA: PBS Chief Paula Kerger Credits ‘Downton Abbey’ In Part For Ratings Spike; Series To Return January 5

By | Tuesday August 6, 2013 @ 11:10am PDT

Add PBS CEO Paula Kerger to the list of network chiefs not buying what NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt was selling at Summer TV Press Tour about Flat being the new Up, ratings-wise. PBS is up 5% in primetime this year versus last, Kerger noted this morning at the tour. A chunk of that increase comes from the whopping 26% ratings spike PBS is enjoying on Sundays, thanks largely to Downton Abbey – which, irony of ironies, is a property of NBCUniversal International. Downton, Kerger noted, clocked around 8 million viewers in its most recent run,  which makes it PBS’ most watched scripted series ever and the second most watched program of any genre, behind only Ken Burns’ docu The Civil War. “We are living in a golden era of drama in television…Sunday night on public television has become a great night for drama,” Kerger gloated.

She thanked cable networks that once gave PBS stiff content competition for “pivoting” in their programming strategy which “left a big opening” for public broadcasting. Read More »

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TCA: PBS’ ‘The Bletchley Circle’ To Return For Second Season, Premiere Dates For New Specials, Series Set

By | Tuesday August 6, 2013 @ 10:55am PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

PBS started off its TCA executive session with CEO Paula Kerger this morning with word that The Bletchley Circle will return for a second season. The four-part drama series will air Sundays beginning in the Spring. PBS also announced that Coming Back With Wes Moore, a three-part special that “personalizes the experiences of returning veterans”, will premiere in May 14. It will be hosted by combat veteran and author Moore. And History series How We Got To Now With Steven Johnson, which explores the “legacy of great ideas”, premieres in Fall 2014. Nutopia is producing the series hosted by science author and media theorist Johnson.  DEVELOPING.

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By | Saturday June 22, 2013 @ 6:15pm PDT

Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor.

Last August, just a month after PBS had earned 58 Primetime Emmy nominations — including 16 for breakout hit Downton Abbey — 
presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Forbes he would eliminate the $445 million federal subsidy for public broadcasting 
if elected president. But while candidates and voters still remain divided on the political value of public broadcasting, the TV Academy is decidedly on PBS’ side. Last year, PBS was the third most-nominated network, and Downton Abbey earned the network its first nomination in the best drama series category since Upstairs, Downstairs, which won the statuette in 1977.

PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger says the attention was welcome, but insists PBS is doing nothing different. “We’ve stayed focused on our core, which is to create quality content that connects to people,” she says. Kerger believes critics who say commercial networks would air these shows without a government subsidy might, in some cases, be right. But she argues that a show like Downton is successful in part because it is on PBS. “We have on Sunday nights an audience that really loves this kind of programming, so we were able to build on an existing audience and add into it,” she says. Read More »

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PBS On ‘Downton Abbey’ Schedule: “We’re Not Punishing Viewers” – TCA

By | Monday January 14, 2013 @ 1:43pm PST

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

Ricky GervaisPBS president Paula Kerger said today that the pubcaster has considered the idea of synching the U.S. broadcast schedule of its hit series Downton Abbey with the earlier British schedule on ITV, but so far it has not found that such a change would best suit the American viewers (she added that in Britain the show airs with commercials; in the U.S. it does not). The idea, she told critics during a PBS session at TCA, has been to avoid pitting Downton against the glut of new fall programming on U.S. networks and cable channels. She compared the experience to watching the Olympics: “People knew the outcome but watched them every night,” she said.

A questioner pointed out that American viewers accept the Olympic broadcast schedule but find it “annoying.” “We’re not punishing our viewers,” Kerger responded with a laugh. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure we are putting the series in a place where the most people can find it.”

Related: PBS To Air Week Of Programming On Newtown Tragedy: TCA Read More »

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PBS Chief Says “No Negative Impact” From Elmo Scandal, Big Bump From Big Bird: TCA

By | Monday January 14, 2013 @ 1:20pm PST

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

Paula Kerger PBS TCAPBS president Paula Kerger’s Q&A session with reporters at TCA included a lot of talk about Sesame Street. The pubcaster’s chief was asked about the show’s darker side: The controversy over former Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash, who resigned in November after accusations of having underage sex. “Elmo is larger than any individual; I have not seen any negative impact,” Kerger said today. “Time will tell; we will watch it very carefully.” Kerger reminded that the character of Kermit the Frog has survived the loss of original voice Jim Henson. As to casting a new Elmo, Kerger said that some of the series’ characters have multiple puppeteers and that there was already an effort underway to get some “additional help” for Elmo. She said she did not expect there would be any formal announcement of a new Elmo puppeteer.

Related: PBS To Air Week Of Programming On Newtown Tragedy: TCA Read More »

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PBS Chief Lashes Back At Romney’s Call To Cut Funding For Public Broadcasting: Video

By | Thursday October 4, 2012 @ 11:00am PDT

PBS CEO Paula Kerger responded to Mitt Romney’s call for the elimination of federal funding for public broadcasting in an interview today with CNN’s Carol Costello. During last night’s Presidential debate, Romney told moderator and PBS veteran Jim Lehrer: “I’m sorry Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I actually like you too, but I’m going to stop borrowing money from China to pay for things we don’t need.” You can watch Kerger’s interview here.

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TCA: Fred Willard Would Have Been “A Distraction”, PBS CEO Says

By | Saturday July 21, 2012 @ 1:47pm PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger fielded questions about Fred Willard during today’s TCA presentation. Willard was dropped from the PBS show Market Warriors after his Wednesday arrest in Hollywood at an adult theater for alleged lewd conduct. Mark Walberg, the host of Antiques Roadshow, has stepped in to take over Willard’s role as narrator. “We are actually in production with that series, and at the end of the week when it became known, we realized we had to move fast because we are taping now, it’s a new series,” Kerger said. “His circumstances would have become a distraction to the series. We talked to him and decided we would bring in Mark Walberg, who is hosting Antiques Roadshow. We asked Mark to do both.” She added that the two are companion shows so having Walberg do both provides a natural link between the two.

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TCA: PBS CEO On Congress De-Funding

By | Saturday July 21, 2012 @ 12:10pm PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

PBSMore programming notes to come from PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger’s TCA session today. But the executive had blunt words about an issue that threatens the organization as a whole: This week’s attack in Congress on federal funding for PBS. On Tuesday, House Republicans proposed zeroing out PBS funding by 2015. Kerger called it “disappointing” that federal funding is being challenged “in the same week that PBS received 58 (primetime) Emmy nominations” and warned that there are a number of stations in underserved areas “that will go dark” if federal funding is significantly slashed.

Kerger said the funding proposal, which comes from the House Appropriations Committee and also would affect funding for NPR, is a complicated one. She said it may be debated next week but she does not think the budget issue will be resolved until after the presidential election. However, whether or not PBS is “zeroed out” in the future, Kerger believes that any major budget cuts would lead to the loss of some PBS stations. Federal funding represents 15% of the PBS budget, but given local differences in how some stations are funded, federal funding can represent 50-60% of the budget for some stations, she said.

Related: TCA: PBS Sets Ken Read More »

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