We report an optical investigation of conjugated polymer (P3HT)/fullerene (PCBM) semiconductor blends sensitized by near-infrared absorbing quantum dots (PbS QDs). A systematic series of samples that include pristine, binary and ternary blends of the materials are studied using steady-state absorption, photoluminescence (PL) and ultrafast transient absorption. Measurements show an enhancement of the absorption strength in the near-infrared upon QD incorporation. PL quenching of the polymer and the QD exciton emission is observed and predominantly attributed to intermaterial photoinduced charge transfer processes. Pump-probe experiments show photo-excitations to relax via an initial ultrafast decay while longer-lived photoinduced absorption is attributed to charge transfer exciton formation and found to depend on the relative ratio of QDs to P3HT:PCBM content. PL experiments and transient absorption measurements indicate that interfacial charge transfer processes occur more efficiently at the fullerene/polymer and fullerene/nanocrystal interfaces compared to polymer/nanocrystal interfaces. Thus the inclusion of the fullerene seems to facilitate exciton dissociation in such blends. The study discusses important and rather unexplored aspects of exciton recombination and charge transfer processes in ternary blend composites of organic semiconductors and near-infrared quantum dots for applications in solution-processed photodetectors and solar cells.