The U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, long an importer of British fare, will attempt to return the favor starting Tuesday with the launch of PBS UK, the Wall Street Journal reports. The lineup includes U.S. flagship shows PBS News Hour and Frontline; the science series Nova; the U.S. version of Antiques Roadshow (format imported from Britain); and documentaries from director Ken Burns, whose Prohibition (pictured) will air on Day 1. It’s PBS’ first major foreign foray since the service was founded more than 40 years ago. PBS UK will air on Britain’s two biggest pay-TV platforms, British Sky Broadcasting and Virgin Media. It will be available to about 14 million viewers, roughly half the country’s TV audience. PBS is late to the party because it doesn’t have a lot of money. U.S. commercial networks such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Discovery and CBS have been in the UK for years. “The top priority is to get our content to an audience that I know is interested in the work we produce,” said PBS chief executive Paula Kerger.
The push for PBS to cross the Atlantic originated with a request from David Lyons, founder of Quadra Group. He asked the service to launch a UK channel because he was a longtime viewer of KSPS-TV, the PBS affiliate in Spokane, Wash., and admired the programming. “It’s one of the leading lights of American culture,” said Lyons, a Canadian businessman living in England and a fan of News Hour. Quadra and PBS Distribution are the joint owners of PBS UK, which unlike PBS in the U.S. will run commercials. Quadra has invested millions of dollars to create the UK channel. PBS Distribution put up the rights to the programs.