PBS has confirmed the new schedule for the networks Winter/Spring 2014 programs, including the long-awaited return of MASTERPIECE “Sherlock, Season 3” starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the legendary British sleuth, on Sunday, January 19 at 10 p.m. ET. The highly acclaimed “Sherlock” follows Season 4 of “Downton Abbey,” which debuts with eight new episodes January 5 on MASTERPIECE. The two shows bolster Sunday night as a hallmark of British drama on PBS, whose ratings that night have grown 26 percent (8-11 pm, 2011-12 season: 9/19/2011-9/23/2012 to 2012-13 season: 9/24/2012-9/22/2013) season over season. The schedule also reinforces PBS’ move into 10 p.m. programming on several key nights.
PBS also announced a number of new programs, including the real-life adventure series CHASING SHACKLETON, the broadcast premieres of biopics “Salinger” on AMERICAN MASTERS (about the reclusive Catcher in the Rye author) and HAWKING, an intimate portrait of physicist Stephen Hawking’s extraordinary life and career, along with a roster of other new shows aimed to strengthen Wednesday night as a destination for TV’s best science and nature programs.
According to Nielsen, PBS’ 2012-2013 primetime programming saw an overall average ratings increase of seven percent over season over season (8-11 pm, 2011-12 season: 9/19/2011-9/23/2012 to 2012-13 season: 9/24/2012-9/22/2013). PBS now ranks eighth among all broadcast and cable networks in overall general audience content, surpassed only by the four major broadcast networks as well as USA, Univision and Disney, and overtaking cable’s ESPN, History and TNT in the rankings. Previously, PBS ranked 11th.
“It’s clear that our 2012-2013 season was a real turning point for PBS, with ‘Downton Abbey’ on MASTERPIECE growing in popularity and a rise in overall general viewership ranking PBS among the top 10 U.S. networks,” says Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager for General Audience Programming, PBS. “With our winter and spring schedule, we continue to enhance our already popular drama and non-fiction nights, and offer potential new viewers a wide range of exciting, timely and topical programs.”
With British drama on Sundays, science and nature on Wednesdays, and arts and performance on Fridays, PBS is committing further to its proven formula of affinity night programming. The pairing of hits “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock” on MASTERPIECE sets the stage for the March 30 return of acclaimed dramas CALL THE MIDWIFE and MASTERPIECE’s “Mr. Selfridge.” Wednesday’s popular line-up offers the January 8 debut of the three-part CHASING SHACKLETON, in which five intrepid adventurers retrace the death-defying 1914 Antarctic sea-and-land journey by a shipwrecked crew led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. Soon after, is the four-part SUPER SKYSCRAPERS (February 5), which displays the dizzying heights of modern buildings, and the April 9th premieres of three-part miniseries NOVA “Inside Animal Minds” and YOUR INNER FISH, based on paleontologist Neil Shubin’s best-selling book that traces the human body’s development over millions of years.
Mondays on PBS feature the broadcast premieres of 17 new and diverse films from INDEPENDENT LENS and POV, including legendary documentarian Frederick Weisman’s “At Berkeley,” which takes a deep look into the public higher education system (January 13), and the rollicking story of an off-beat American music mecca in the Alabama town of “Muscle Shoals” (April 21). Performing arts take the spotlight on Friday nights, with superstar Christopher Plummer onstage as the immortal John Barrymore in GREAT PERFORMANCES “Barrymore” (January 31), and music and dance programs scheduled throughout the season.
News, history and public affairs remain a cornerstone for PBS with PBS NEWSHOUR, CHARLIE ROSE − THE WEEK and new thought-provoking programs such as AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “The Amish: Shunned” (February 4) and the five-part epic THE STORY OF THE JEWS (March 25-April 1).