What Is PBS' Future In A World Of Cord Cutting, Budget Cuts?

Thinking your cost contribution for your public media station is too pricey? Well, look at the whole picture. The average cost for the American taxpayer when it comes to getting a public TV or radio station? $1.35 per year.

By way of comparison, the average annual cost for the average U.S. consumer when it come pay TV providers per year: $843.72 (according to the FCC); others say it can be as high as $1237.20 (according to the Leichtman Research Group).

Well, you claim not to watch a PBS station or listen to an NPR radio station. Sure, no problem. You should have a choice; you love your ability to go “a la carte” for everything. Fair enough. Maybe others want to go “a la carte” on whether to get extra military tanks and battleship. Call your congressional representative.

Everyone wants savings. Cost-cutting is the rage. President Donald Trump wants to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has an annual budget of $445 million.



The CPB delivers funding to public media. Now, to be fair, CPB represents a small piece of funding for a typical PBS or NPR station -- 15% and 2% respectively, according to one report.

What happens if public media loses some of its attraction. Is that more viewers/listeners for broadcast or cable or ad-supported radio?

In January, Pivotal Research Group says public TV stations pulled in a 0.8% share of all 18-49 viewers in looking at total day Nielsen ratings. This is down from a 0.9% share in January 2016 and 1.0% in January 2015.

Yes, PBS TV stations -- like advertising-supported broadcast and cable TV -- are seeing erosion. Traditional media will continue to look for share wherever it can.

TV consumers are still deciding how much media they should pay for -- and what channels they want -- in the new digital media age filled with seemingly lower cost options.

But consider this: A recent TiVo study that examined 100 networks which could be included in a skinny TV bundle --  typically 20-30 channels -- the PBS network was in eighth place in terms of popularity.

Now, think about all your media dollars and cents.

2 comments about "What Is PBS' Future In A World Of Cord Cutting, Budget Cuts?".
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  1. David Kleeman from Dubit, March 17, 2017 at 9:36 a.m.

    Years ago, I did a strategic study for PBS Kids on what it means to be a public service media outlet (for kids) in the digital age. One of the major conclusions was that a single, one-size-fits-all measure of success was not appropriate. So, Nielsen ratings tell only a fraction of the story of public service media. Mick Mulvaney used coal miners and single mothers as his yardstick for government spending. How many coal miners' families have benefitted from the distance learning efforts of Kentucky Educational Television, or the documentaries of Appalshop (CPB funded) and others. How many single mothers have few other resources but PBS Kids for early learning, or use PBS Parents to get advice and community?

    The ranking of PBS among a la carte channel choices is more relevant. One of my favorite Broadway songs is "I'd Rather be Nine People's Favorite Thing Than 100 People's Ninth Favorite Thing" (from "<Title of Show>"). As media fragments and more and more services go to subscription models, parents will face choices about where to invest.

    From my company's research, and from my 30 years of experience in children's media, I'd guess that parents won't spare their own budget axe from the cheapest or the deepest SCOD (Content on Demand, including games, ebooks, apps, etc.) services. Instead, they'll keep the services that their kids connect with emotionally, the services that - if cut - would yield tears. Public broadcasting has done a good job of connecting with Americans intellectually and emotionally.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, March 17, 2017 at 8:47 p.m.

    Conversely, without PBS and NPR, Americans and kids will be less connected intellectually and emotionally. It's part of their goal especially when you add in all the other things they want to do to rape the country of its dignity and wealth and beauty.

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