Downton popularity, Sprout sale contribute to $30.7 million budget surplus for PBS

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PBS is once again enjoying a budget surplus, thanks in part to the continuing success of Masterpiece’s hit British costume drama Downton Abbey.

PBS Chief Financial Officer Barbara Landes told the board’s finance committee Monday that net income for fiscal 2014 totaled $30.7 million.

This year, $10.4 million of that total is a one-time windfall due to the sale of PBS’s 15 percent equity share in the kids’ cable network Sprout. NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group acquired full ownership of Sprout, formerly called PBS Kids Sprout, in November 2013.

PBS operations generated $20.3 million, thanks to better than expected returns on short-term investments, revenue-generating activities such as online sponsorship and mobile apps, and lower operating expenses, according to Landes.

PBS Distribution, which handles digital sales including the Downton franchise, also once again performed better than anticipated, as it has over the past several years. In 2014, PBS also negotiated higher fees when renewing subscription video-on-demand deals.

Jack Galmiche, vice chair of the Finance Committee, told the full PBS board Wednesday that the FY15 budget recommended setting aside $17.5 million of any excess FY14 net income for content, member services and technology initiatives. The committee advised the board that of the remaining $13.2 million, $11.2 million should go to digital work, with $10.4 million of that specifically for kids’ educational content and products; $1.5 million to the Roadmap to the Future Fund, a board-managed account that supports initiatives such as system sustainability and arts programming; and $500,000 to undesignated assets.

The full board agreed unanimously.

  • Also on #Sprout are many reruns
    of many PBS shows, many episodes
    of Lazy Town (who promotes a very
    healthy life) and a new original
    series, #FLOOGALS, also to be aired
    in Latin America on a station owned
    by Discovery Networks Int’l.
    sproutonline.com has more
    games and activities.