- Dec 15, 2011
Station Spotlight: Time for Tea with MPT
By Kelsey Savage, PBS Interactive
With everyone clamoring to return to the Crawley estate for Season 2 of Downton Abbey (see here, here and here), we thought we’d showcase how one stateside station has capitalized on our love of all things British.
Maryland Public Television started airing a block of British programming every weekday afternoon in 2000 when the Program Director, Zvi Shoubin, wanted to adjust the daytime schedule to be more adult centric.
By 2005, the Chief Content Officer decided to grow this initiative by adding a complimentary online feature and cleverly branding the experience as Afternoon Tea.
Bob Wilson of MPT's Creative Services team explains that viewers can log into the Afternoon Tea website and participate in a “very popular weekly trivia contest where winners receive a special Afternoon Tea mug” or learn about “general interest stories with a British theme, such as the recent royal wedding of William and Catherine.” Wilson also notes that, with an almost cult-like obsession, “Tea viewers have a HUGE interest in the actors in the shows, especially where they are now and how their acting careers began and evolved.”
Given that most of programming is focused on old British comedies that are no longer producing new content, Wilson says the Afternoon Tea team has to “get creative” in how they keep the shows topical and relevant. The series Creative Service Director, in particular, serves “as a solid source and sounding board of ideas and initiatives.”
Wilson also attributes much of Afternoon Tea’s success to the engaging on-air talent. Heather Sanderson, known to most people as “The Tea Lady”, is the face of the program, appearing on-air to promote the show and announce the weekly trivia winners. She also writes a weekly Tea Time Tidbit article for the website, along with “a monthly article that tends to present a broader facet of British culture, such as her recent feature on Guy Fawkes Day.”
Besides just relying on viewers to tune into the program, MPT has really made the Afternoon Tea website a destination spot of its own. As part of the tea Community, you can learn about different tea rooms, either Maryland-based or worldwide. One way that they promote their website and other relevant PBS events is through their Facebook page, a relatively new venture, or more time-tested and larger Tea e-mail list.
The Station Spotlight series looks at #localpbs stations and the projects they are working on to highlight the innovative landscape of public media. If you would like to share your station's latest digital efforts, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.