TCA 2010: PBS Ramps Up Cross-Platform Push

OK, it’s not broadcast or cable. No show’s hosts are pissed off. And no dayparts were unnecessarily destroyed a la you-know-what network. But PBS is still a valid part of the broadcast landscape, and there were some announcements.  

PBS recently launched PBS Newshour, while revamping The Night Business Report with more of an emphasis on insight, analysis and context. This coming May will be the introduction of a cross-platform public affairs project called Need to Know, which will report on five different beats: the economy, energy and the environment, health, security and culture. Each correspondent will respond online from these beats throughout the week.  

“Our tent-pole philosophy is really an attempt to try to identify a series of programs throughout the year that we put resources behind for promotion,” said Paula Kerger, president of PBS. “We don’t have the resources to invest heavily in advertising and promotion, and so by aggregating our resources around a limited number of programs throughout the year, we hopefully not only will shine a bright light on those programs but also, through a halo effect, promote some of the other work we’re doing throughout the year.”
Online, a new integrated PBS news site will debut later this year, while an online PBS Arts Showcase will launch in April, featuring a broadband video channel and several interactive features as a compliment to the current programming.

At PBS Kids, the mantra remains for media to be used to serve kids and not to sell to them. To date, 88 million videos streams have been tallied for the new PBS preschool video player, and upcoming project Lifeboat to Mars, a new, interactive educational game on, has been confirmed.  

“We really looked very hard at our children’s work in trying to put programs into the schedule that were curriculum-based,” said Kerger. “Now, the children’s programming also needs to be entertaining, because kids control the remote, and if we don’t make programs that are engaging and fun, they’re not going to watch it.”

As to the future of PBS programming: “We are constantly looking for programs that we hope will inspire people to become donors to our local stations, and so it’s a continuing journey,” noted Kerger. “I’m always looking for ideas. I look for them everywhere.”

Note to all wannabe series creators: here is your opportunity. Never underestimate the value of public broadcasting.