PBS has been a beacon for uninterrupted programming for decades. During the broadcaster’s recent annual meeting, however, member stations were informed that the model was changing. Beginning this fall, interruptions will take many forms, from sponsor spots to promotional messages, all in the hope of getting more eyes and ears tuned in to nonprogram content.
The new model replaces a time-honored tradition of packing on all of the promotional and sponsor content in the front and back of the show. What was left was 50 minutes of uninterrupted entertainment. With the new model, the longest stretch of programming will drop to a mere 15 minutes. The plan is aimed at capturing the viewers’ attention during the show, rather than scrambling to keep it after the program has finished.
Executives and producers alike worry about their new strategy. Though they’ve identified the need to try something new, executives hope they will be able to recover if the project goes awry. For producers who have historically been given creative free range to make shows that don’t need to bow to the demands of cutting to commercial, there are concerns as well. While some shows, like Antiques Roadshow will be easy targets for the new plan, others like Frontline, may be left in their current format.