'Downton Abbey' came at a good time for PBS SoCal

downton-abbey-season2.jpgThe final episode of "Downton Abbey" season two on Sunday night attracted a 2.3 rating and a 4 share in the Los Angeles market, ranking ahead of the programming on KCAL, KTLA and KCOP, says TV Guide's Michael Schneider at his personal blog, Franklin Avenue. The episode's 166,000 local viewers watched on the former KOCE Channel 50, which has been looking for a popular show to beam over the PBS network and hook viewers who used to watch KCET, when it was the region's main PBS station. "It came along at the right time," says PBS SoCal president and general manager Mel Rogers.

Writes Schneider:

For casual viewers who might not have been aware of the L.A. change, "Downton" was invaluable. "'Downton Abbey' enabled us to reach audiences that are not just the typical PBS audience, including younger people, and gave us a chance to establish ourselves as the area's PBS station," Rogers said.

Previously a secondary PBS station that focused on its Orange County audience, KOCE saw its ratings spike last year when it took over the region's primary PBS affiliation. "The day I really felt lucky was the day KCET decided to give up the most trusted media brand and walk away from it," Rogers said.

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The switch happened so fast for KOCE that some things, including fundraising, have been slow going -- particularly given the rough economy, which has impacted charitable donations across the country. KOCE had been raising around $10 million annually, a number that is now up to $14 million -- but Rogers expects to see more of a spike in the future now that underwriters are starting to find the station. "These things build upon themselves. It takes time to build those relationships in L.A.," he said.

On-air pledges are way up, though: Even though KOCE has cut its pledge drive hours by 45%, the station has seen its pledge dollars jump by 52%, Rogers said. That will help cover KOCE's PBS dues, which have tripled since the station became L.A.'s primary affiliate.

PBS SoCal has rebranded its Friday night local series as "SoCal Insider," and is "close to partnering with New York's PBS station, WNET, on a new arts series," Schneider says.


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