PBS says it is in danger of going away -- a move that isn’t all about the obvious potential stripping of government support. PBS President/Chief Executive Officer Paula Kerger says only 15% of the network's overall funds come directly from the federal government. The vast majority comes from donations, both big and small. To a lesser degree, PBS also gets money from advertisers, called "sponsorships."
While critics worry about the continued incursion of advertising and marketing on public broadcasting shows, the majority of the system is still predominately non-advertising-related. In that regard, the money PBS gets from marketers cannot at this time support PBS shows and the PBS system overall.
The question always comes up: Should PBS add more commercial/marketing deals? While messaging at the beginning or the end of shows -- in the form of over-the-air announcers and on-screen text -- has been around for a long time, actual video-like commercials do not really exist. Perhaps they should – or some other media execution.
Media fragmentation has hurt all kinds of broadcasters – except, possibly, Spanish-language networks and stations, according to executives.
PBS has maintained its audience to some degree through the years. That is valuable to marketers. Still, PBS’ audience isn't that "young-skewing" -- which still gets a shrug of shoulders from marketing executives.
For PBS, there is always a concern about advertising/marketing influence. But perhaps lessons can be learned from the actions of cable networks over the last few years. Some have been able to stretch their ability to air not-so-standard content and risqué fare while maintaining advertiser support.
Here's another thing to consider: When it comes to PBS' more journalistic/documentarian efforts, especially now in the digital age when new journalism is under attack both financially and critically, PBS could be touted as a valuable, important news source in an increasingly muddled electronic news environment.
On the entertainment side, we’re sure many more advertisers would love to latch onto the likes of "Downton Abbey."
Last year a PBS proposal surfaced in which commercial messaging could be placed inside programs -- selectively and in more "natural" storyline breaks.
All this would push PBS' advertising/marketing envelope -- but perhaps not so far as to look like a traditional ad-supported network. One shouldn't call for a complete commercialization of PBS, but this network needs some new media thinking from modern, digital-savvy advertisers/marketers.