PBS Moving 'Independent Lens' and 'POV' to Monday Night

By Elizabeth Jensen, The New York Times

Just weeks after hundreds of independent filmmakers protested a scheduling change for two award-winning independent film series on PBS, the broadcaster said Wednesday that it would move both series, "Independent Lens" and "POV," to a Monday night slot and begin promotional efforts to recover viewers who were lost this season.

The average number of viewers for new episodes of "Independent Lens" dropped 39 percent from October 2011 through March, after the show was bumped from the Tuesday night schedule (new episodes of "POV," which were also moved, begin June 21.)

PBS asked its stations to run the two series on Thursdays, a night when most stations run local shows or non-PBS programs. So instead, many stations moved the film series out of prime time and to various nights.

Beginning with the new season of "Independent Lens" on Oct. 29 (followed by "POV" in June 2013), the programs will be shown at 10 p.m. Eastern time, after "Antiques Roadshow" and its coming spinoff "Market Warriors."

Gordon Quinn, an executive producer of "Hoop Dreams" and co-founder of the   documentary producer Kartemquin Films, said his organization was pleased with the new scheduling. In March, about 1,200 supporters of independent film, including some 400 filmmakers, signed an open letter posted online by Kartemquin, protesting PBS's decision to move the shows.

"We really feel that we had an effect," he said.

"When it was clear that Thursday night was not delivering everything that we hoped, we decided to take a fresh look at it," said Paula A. Kerger, PBS's president and chief executive. She said PBS settled on Monday because all other nights already had programming commitments.

The slot has the potential to bring a large lead-in audience to the independent film series, said John Wilson, PBS's top programming executive. "Antiques Roadshow" is PBS's most popular series, and PBS hopes the audience will feel the same about "Market Warriors."

Local stations will still have the right to broadcast the film series in other time slots, but early indications are that they are likely to stick to PBS's preferred slot. "The feedback we've gotten so far has been great," said Simon Kilmurry, executive director of "POV."

In addition to the schedule change, PBS will showcase some of the series' films next season in a broadcast and online "film festival," Ms. Kerger said. PBS is also developing tools for local stations to connect online with local independent filmmakers and fans, she said. "This is more comprehensive than just a broadcast strategy."