Public broadcaster PBS is looking to get involved in British dramas at an earlier stage to deal with the increasing competition from the streamers.
President and CEO Paula Kerger, speaking at PBS’ virtual press tour, told Deadline that it is eyeing new ways to keep the pipeline open that brought shows such as Downton Abbey, All Creatures Great and Small and Call The Midwife to the States.
“There’s more competition clearly for British drama. I actually think it’s a good thing that there is a deepening appetite for British drama and and we’re very much a part of why that that exists. We’re getting involved a little earlier, upstream in some productions and bringing those to our audience. We have a big audience because we’re a broadcaster. I think for many properties that’s appealing. It’s a dynamic environment and we look always to for ways to figure that out,” she said.
Masterpiece kicked off the year with the premiere of Glenda Jackson’s Elizabeth Is Missing, and is airing the new adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small from Playground Entertainment, Miss Scarlet & The Duke, which stars The Crown’s Kate Phillips as Victorian sleuth Eliza Scarlet, and The Long Song starring Tamara Lawrance as a house slave in Jamaica during the era of emancipation in the early 1800s, with Hayley Atwell as her fickle mistress and Jack Lowden as a handsome overseer and romantic foil.
Call The Midwife is one of PBS Masterpiece’s biggest series, but season ten of the BBC co-production was delayed due to Covid-19. Neal Street Production commenced filming in the summer and the period drama has been slimmed down to seven episodes rather than eight.
Kerger admitted that producing drama was one of its biggest challenges in 2020 and that Call The Midwife would now air later this year. She added that it took the opportunity to look “a little wider” for shows, including Norwegian drama Atlantic Crossing starring Kyle MacLachlan.
Elsewhere, Kerger addressed the current funding challenges for PBS. She said that the public broadcaster has had a good relationship with Joe Biden over the years and has “deep support” in Congress and is eagerly awaiting the administration’ first budget.
“As we look at this year ahead and all of the challenges our country is dealing with, obviously the decisions of funding that the Congress needs to make are complicated with so many different priorities on the list. I sympathize this as it’s a tough time to be really wrestling through all of that. We are cautiously optimistic. We are hopeful that this will go well. We had a great relationship with the Bidens, first with Senator Biden and then with Vice president Biden and now we hope with President Biden,” she added.