Downton, Roosevelts help boost PBS to fifth in ratings

PBS finished the 2013-14 broadcast season in fifth place among broadcast and cable networks, up from eighth the previous season and 11th in 2011-12. Beth Hoppe, PBS’s chief programmer, has focused on scheduling similar genres together to retain primetime audience from one show to the next. “It’s a strategy that is paying off,” she said in the announcement Wednesday. Average primetime household Nielsen ratings rose over last season from 1.43 to 1.50, finishing with an average audience of some 1.9 million viewers, according to PBS. Viewing on Sunday nights, anchored by Masterpiece and its hit Downton Abbey franchise, grew 7 percent over last season.

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

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.