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.
Sherlock: His Last Vow won four of the eight Creative Arts Emmys awarded to PBS programs by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences during the Aug. 17 Primetime Emmy gala celebrating technical achievement. Sherlock, a BBC production that aired on WGBH’s Masterpiece, picked up its four wins in the miniseries or movie categories. Editor Yan Miles won for outstanding single-camera picture editing for a miniseries or movie, and Director of Photography Neville Kidd won the Emmy for cinematography in a miniseries or movie. The detective drama also won awards for sound editing, with statuettes given to supervising sound editor Doug Sinclair; sound editors Stuart McCowan, Jon Joyce and Paul McFadden; Foley editor William Everett; and Foley artist Sue Harding.
• A publicity photo from the fifth season of Downton Abbey made the rounds on the Internet for all the wrong reasons. The shot of stars Hugh Bonneville and Laura Carmichael featured an anachronistic plastic water bottle perched on a mantle. Producer ITV has since removed the shot from its press site, according to the BBC, and it’s also vanished from PBS’s pressroom. “You had one job, guys. One job,” Buzzfeed wrote.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The success of Downton Abbey, whose fifth season has been set for Jan. 4, has created a novel problem for PBS: too many programs to fit into the Sunday-night slot occupied by Masterpiece. It’s possible that PBS might schedule some of the excess series at another hour or on another day. But there are no plans to do so for now, according to Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton.
The stars of Downton Abbey aren’t the only luminaries whom journalists will chat with during PBS’s portion of the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour today and Wednesday. Other big names at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., include rapper and songwriter Nas, director Spike Lee, Oscar winner Geena Davis, actor Nathan Lane and television legend Dick Cavett. The twice-yearly tour is a chance for broadcasters to woo more than 200 reporters with news of their upcoming schedules, deploying sizzle reels, high-profile appearances, question-and-answer sessions and, of course, food and drinks. PBS President Paula Kerger will greet journalists during her executive session at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Later today, the press conference for Season 5 of Downton Abbey, PBS’s blockbuster series on Masterpiece, will feature Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and Tom Branson (Allen Leech), as well as Executive Producer Gareth Neame and Masterpiece’s Rebecca Eaton.
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes has weighed in on PBS’s decision to delay airing the Masterpiece megahit for months after each season premieres in Britain. And as his countryfolk might say, he is cheesed off. “I want to have simultaneous transmission in America and Britain,” he tells the Telegraph of London. “The difficulty that we have is that people are discussing the series as it happens online before America’s seen it and on the internet we’re all in the same company. It’s madness.”
Then he adds: “It’s what I’d like, but who cares what I think?”
Scheduling Downton is a tricky subject for PBS. The blockbuster costume drama has always premiered in January on PBS, two months after the British airing.