PBS’s Masterpiece has launched a campaign to raise $20M for a Masterpiece 50th Anniversary Fund in 2020. The fund has landed a lead gift of $5M from Darlene Marcos Shiley, chair of the Shiley Foundation, longtime public media supporter and the first face an average of 13 million Americans saw when they tuned in to Downton Abbey and caught that 10-second introductory spot.
The $5M gift is the largest to date to the Masterpiece Trust, an initiative that launched in 2011 to reach out to individual donors and families after the iconic franchise lost its main sponsor Exxon Mobil in 2004.
Producing station WGBH said the Masterpiece Trust 50th Anniversary Challenge Fund is established in honor of “five decades of beloved programming,” including the Upstairs Downstairs, The Forsyte Saga and Prime Suspect and recent hits Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and Victoria, and to further the legacy of the series that also is by far the most viewed series on PBS’s “Passport” member streaming service for local public television stations.
As a component of the gift, Shiley has put on the table a $2M 1:1 challenge in support of the fund, saying she hopes it will inspire others.
“50 is fabulous. How many television series can say that?” Masterpiece EP Rebecca Eaton said in today’s announcement. “Darlene’s amazing gift means Masterpiece programs will be available for viewers to enjoy for years to come.”
Shiley has been a contributor to the Masterpiece Trust since its inception in 2011. Back in 2012, when Downton Abbey had generated a Best Movie/Miniseries Emmy win and plenty of fans for the franchise, PBS touted the philanthropist’s $1M gift to the Masterpiece Trust, after previously giving $250K. With the $5M gift, Shiley has to date donated more than $10M.