Nova moving to Wednesdays, themed nights ahead for upcoming PBS primetime

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Big changes are coming in PBS’s winter/spring 2011 primetime schedule — including a shift for Nova from its longtime Tuesday slot to Wednesdays, and two themed content nights.

A Thursday (Oct. 14) memo to station execs and programmers says the weekly Nielsen ratings that PBS began using last year, an improvement over the previous monthly numbers, provided a “depth of audience data” to allow it to “better optimize audience potential for our content.” In the case of Nova, additional research showed potential to expand its audience through the schedule change.

Nova’s move to 9 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays will allow for two to three hours of themed content that evening on science, exploration and natural history. This winter, Nova will run after Nova scienceNOW; in the spring, Secrets of the Dead will be in that 8 p.m. Eastern slot. Tuesdays will feature historical and cultural documentaries, which research shows has a significant audience overlap with Frontline, the memo says. Tuesdays bring the second season of Pioneers of Primetime (with first season repeats) this winter, with Henry Louis Gates’ Blacks in Latin America in the spring. “Thereafter,” the memo says, “PBS’s schedule on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. is a development opportunity for new series,” including a show in early planning stages through the CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation Fund.

The Thursday night feed also will shift to allow a repeat of Antiques Roadshow at 8 p.m., and The This Old House Hour feed at 10 p.m.

Pop-outs include a sesquicentennial encore presentation of the Ken Burns blockbuster, The Civil War.

“The Nova move and other structural schedule changes this winter also sets the stage for further potential PBS primetime schedule changes to come in future seasons,” the memo notes.

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