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Where will future 'Masterpiece Theatres' come from now?

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The finest British television from the British Broadcasting Corporation will soon disappear from the TV screens of most American homes, according to American television's top purchaser of BBC programming -- Mobil.

Herbert Schmertz, the Mobil vice-president in charge of promotion and advertising, the man mainly responsible for Mobil's underwriting of PBS's "Masterpiece Theater" for the past ten years, told the Monitor he believes the BBC has made a major error in signing an "exclusivity deal" for its programming for the next ten years with a new cable network. The BBC agreement is with RCTV , a newly formed pay-TV division of Rockefeller Center Inc.

At present, the financially troubled BBC has a distribution agreement with Time-Life Television which runs through March 1982. However, since the arrangement has proven unprofitable for Time- Life, it is expected that Arthur R. Taylor, former president of CBS, who heads up the RCTV operation, will probably negotiate for an earlier takeover of the BBC productions.

PBS president Larry Grossman, already on the record as believing that Public Broadcasting must find new areas of specialization for itself, perhaps in distribution of quality programming to all levels of TV, claims the changeover will have little impact on PBS, since "Masterpiece Theater" is the only regular program which consistently utilizes BBC-originated material. However, there are many other programs such as "Nova" and "World" in which BBC material figures importantly.

Mr. Grossman even implied that it might be a boon to PBS in that "the new pay-cable network will be airing the BBC shows first, and when we acquire them, they'll be at lower cost to us."


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