South Florida PBS’ The Health Channel, reportedly the only 24/7 TV channel of its kind, recently moved beyond local public TV to the national FAST track: free advertiser-supported streaming TV.
Veteran TV and radio honcho Bill Scott, now executive vice president of South Florida PBS, spoke with Marketing Daily about the evolution of the channel, which first began airing in 2018. The discussion has been edited for length and clarity.
Marketing Daily: Why a 24/7 health channel?
Bill Scott: South Florida PBS does listening sessions with the communities we serve. Over quite a period of time, the topic of health kept coming up. [Viewers had] concerns about health, access to health knowledge, and where to get what they needed for them and their families to be healthy.
MD: What brings donors and underwriters to the channel? [Some examples include ThermoFisher, Florida Blue, Eunice Joyce, and the Gardner Foundation.]
Scott: There’s a lot of support because we are addressing issues that are essential to people who really need this information. We’re available on many platforms that are convenient to them, whether it’s a smartphone, a television set, online, and now, FAST channels.
MD: How does FAST’s ad-supported nature work with a public broadcaster?
Scott: We’re testing the waters. We need to learn about it. At the moment, without going into business details, the advertising is handled by the FAST channel organizations.
We’re finding out what’s the best way to proceed in a manner that can help us sustain what we do -- produce things --and what the best route to do that is. We’re providing programs and seeing what happens in terms of revenue that others may derive from the FAST channels.
MD: What are some programming highlights?
Scott: "Hope is Here": A young college student in California had cancer and ultimately passed away, but her story was one of incredible courage. We made a series out of that, also covering stories of people who have faced challenges to their health -- and in the face of those challenges, have provided inspiration to other people.
We’ve produced a couple of dozen “Town Halls” with medical experts that other PBS stations around the country have carried -- on everything from COVID to getting through the maze of Medicare.And two weeks before it was declared a pandemic by the U.S. government, we launched “Coping with COVID,” which aired every day. That’s now transitioned into "The Living Minute," which has broadened the health territory it covers. We’ve produced 800 of them. We send “The Living Minute” to public broadcasting stations around the country.
MD: Who is the Health Channel’s audience?
Scott: The public broadcasting demographic tends to be a little older, but health is for everyone. We seek to serve those of all backgrounds, with particular interest [in] those who are underserved, those who are financially or educationally or otherwise not in a circumstance where they have easy access.
MD: Is the Health Channel now making more of a national push?
Scott: Health is an international concern and issue, and we want to be available to as many people as possible. Our primary target is here in South Florida, but health knows no borders. As a result, because we’re online, there are people in countries all over the world who watch us.