BOSTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- PBS said Monday it has made a deal to bring even more high-quality British programming to American fans under its Masterpiece banner.
The expanded schedule is funded by a corporate sponsorship with Viking River Cruises, which has supported the series at 9 p.m. on Sunday evenings since 2011.
"The generosity and vision of all our funders creates the potential for a fantastic 50 percent increase in the number of new hours in 2015," executive producer Rebecca Eaton said in a statement. "This is truly a golden age of British drama and we're very proud of this affirmation of the Masterpiece brand."
Produced by WGBH/Boston, Masterpiece has aired on PBS since 1971, but has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, thanks to popular programs like Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, Sherlock, Marple and Poirot.
"PBS and Masterpiece are at the forefront of a global resurgence of quality drama," said Beth Hoppe, chief programming executive and general manager of general audience programming for PBS. "Masterpiece has been the place for quality costume drama and intriguing mysteries for more than 40 years, so we are glad to bring viewers more of what they love to our schedule."
PBS said its upcoming programming slate will include Grantchester, a six-part mystery featuring James Norton as a charismatic young clergyman and Robson Green as a down-to-earth cop, who team up to fight crime. The program is to premiere Jan. 18 and will follow new episodes of Downton Abbey.
On April 5, three-time Tony Award-winning actor Mark Rylance and Emmy Award-winner Damian Lewis will be seen as Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII in the start of the six-part Wolf Hall, a highly anticipated adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize-winning novels -- Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.
Other Masterpiece programming scheduled for 2015 includes The Manners of Downton Abbey, a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Edwardian customs with Alastair Bruce, historical adviser to Downton Abbey; a third season of the popular Mr. Selfridge starring Jeremy Piven; a new adaptation of the 1970s romantic saga Poldark starring Aidan Turner; and the drama Indian Summers, set in the waning years of British colonial rule in 1930s India.