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PBS Chief on ‘Downton Abbey,’ ‘The Roosevelts’ Streaming and ‘Midwife’ Return

It didn’t take long for “Downton Abbey” to dominate the question-and-answer session between PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger and journalists at the summer Television Critics Assn. press tour on July 22.

The British period drama’s delayed airdate in the States — as well as fellow Brit import “Sherlock” — tinted the discussion on Ken Burns’ upcoming 14-hour miniseries “The Roosevelts,” which will be streamed in its entirety the day after its September 14 premiere.

“Because [‘The Roosevelts’] is such a big and important series … we’ve found that by offering it up in multiple places, people could catch up and come in and out of the broadcast so that the broadcast audience, rather than being impacted negatively, is impacted positively because the people who miss an episode or two can catch up and come back into the series,” she said, adding, “I’m waiting for someone to ask now why don’t you do that with ‘Downton’? Now, ‘Downton’ might have some surprises in it and I think you sort of know what’s going to happen to the Roosevelts. I’m not sure there’s going to be any big spoilers in there for you.”

Digital in general is becoming a bigger focus for PBS, according to Kerger.

“We make sure that wherever people are going for content, we’re there,” she said, specifying that this means local as well as national content.

The music programs might also branch out from the Baby Boomer demographic PBS is known for as it tries to cover millennials — as Kerger said she looks at programs like those at the White House for examples of melding these worlds.

Kerger also discussed the titillatingly-titled “Sex in the Wild,” which focuses on animal reproduction, saying PBS wanted to warn viewers who might stumble upon the series on their own, while also acknowledging that they are competing with broadcast channels for viewers.

She also hinted that the public broadcaster might dabble in original programming soon, but for right now it will rely on staples like “Call the Midwife” and “Mr. Selfridge.” The former returns March 29 and the latter’s return date has not been set. And, of course, there’s “Downton.” It returns for its fifth season on Jan. 4.

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