PBS will make the entire 14-hour run of filmmaker Ken Burn’s new documentary The Roosevelts available to stream online one day after the series’ first two-hour installment premieres on the air public broadcast stations, PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger announced Tuesday at the TCA summer press tour.
“It’s an experiment,” Kerger said as she addressed reporters in her executive session. “Like everything else we’re doing, I will be really interested to see and we’ll be looking at how people are finding it, so we’ll look at the numbers, but we’ll also look at feedback. We’ll look at whether our stations have felt this has worked out for their own communities.”
The series will premiere on broadcast Sept. 14 and stream via member-station sites the following day.
Noting that PBS made its first appearance at NewFronts in May, Kerger emphasized the increasing importance of digital platforms to PBS’ growth. She pointed to the forthcoming digital series Frankenstein M.D., a co production of PBS Digital Studios and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries producer Pemberley Digital, as a way in which digital programming has allowed PBS to experiment and engage audiences such as teens.
“For me, and I’ve now been in this business for quite some time now, and I think this is our most exciting time,” Kerger said. “I used to talk to people who were first in public broadcasting at its inception, where there was a lot of experimentation, there was a lot of work that was happening at the local level, and I feel like we’re back there again.”
Kerger touted science, history and kids’ programming as areas in which PBS has made its biggest investments. “We are very focused in the pre-K space to make sure that kids who may live in homes without computers or may live in homes without books have access to content that will give them at least a leg up when they enter school,” Kerger said.
She also discussed the importance of dramas such as Downton Abbey and Sherlock to PBS. Asked whether PBS would, as Kerger has indicated in the past the network is interested in doing, explore producing an original drama in the United States, Kerger said, “I’m smiling, and we’ll be able to tell you something sometime soon.”
PBS also made several new programming announcements Tuesday. Walt Disney, a two-part, four-hour documentary about the Walt Disney Corp. founder will premiere in fall, 2015. Two-hour documentary Navy SEALs—Their Untold Story will premier Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, 2014.
New six-part series The Brain With Dr. David Eagleman will premiere in 2015. Season four of U.K. drama Call the Midwife will make its U.S. premiere on PBS March 29, 2015.
PBS also announced that the lineup for the 2014 PBS Fall Arts Festival, to be hosted by Kristin Chenoweth, will include 40th anniversary celebrations of Live From Lincoln Center and Austin City Limits, as well as a Great Performances concert featuring Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, as well as other programming.