TCA: PBS Chief Kerger ‘Hopeful’ ‘Finding Your Roots’ Will Return

Comments on ‘gift’ of ‘Downton Abbey,’ binge viewing
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Related: Complete Coverage of TCA Summer Press Tour

Beverly Hills, Calif. — PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger said she is “hopeful” the embattled genealogy series Finding Your Roots will return.

"We want to make sure we have the appropriate oversight in place when moving forward,” said Kerger Saturday during the public broadcaster’s portion of the TCA 2015 summer press tour.

Finding Your Roots came under scrutiny earlier this year after it was revealed in emails posted by Wikileaks that actor Ben Affleck had asked producers not to include references to his slave-owning ancestors.

Kerger said that they began investigating the series as soon as they found out what had happened and they are “hopeful” it will come back for a third season.

The exec not surprisingly also fielded questions about the sixth and final season of Donwton Abbey, which Kerger said “has been a great gift.”

Downton has made a big difference for a lot of reasons,” she said, adding that the series brought a lot of people back to public television. “You have these wonderful projects and sometimes they hit at exactly the right moment.”

The broadcaster is sending the series off in grand fashion with a Downton Abbey themed float in the Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1 - no, Kerger won’t be on it. Downton’s final season will premiere Jan. 3.

But don’t expect this to be the end of drama for PBS.

“I do believe that Downton won’t be the last great drama,” she said.

In fact, PBS is getting back into the original drama production business with Mercy Street, a Civil War-era scripted series about a private home-turned-hospital in Virginia.

Kerger said that she is excited about Mercy Street and “cautiously optimistic that this will lead us down a path to more original programming.”

But she said dramas are very expensive to produce and PBS’ content budget pales in comparison to other networks.

With streamer Netflix dominating the TCA landscape earlier in the week, Kerger also addressed binge viewing.

“I don’t know how much of what we do we’ll release in that way,” she said, explaining PBS experimented with binge viewing with the release of the Ken Burns documentary The Roosevelts last year. “The series itself had an enormous audience.”

She added that the network will continue to look at projects as they come along but they are ultimately most interested in maximizing the audience of their content.

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