Like Other Programmers, PBS Looks To Web To Get Viewers -- And Advertisers

PBS has been moving to a more advertising-supported model over the last several years. Now the Internet seems to be helping this trend along.

PBS will be adding shows on -- "Nova," "Wired Science," "Carrier" and "Scientific American Frontiers" - and looking for more marketing associations.  

In keeping with the PBS mandate of retaining the integrity of programming, just one 30-second spot will run before these shows, and nothing will run during any episodes. is selling the advertising time, and PBS and will split the revenues from this activity.

This level of advertising activity isn't that removed from the number of commercials the broadcast networks stream with their shows on the Internet. Right now anywhere from three to four 30-second spots run in one hour-long episode that is streamed.

This compares to some 10 minutes an hour of national commercial time  -- and anywhere from 15 minutes to 17 minutes of total non-program time, which includes national and local spots, national and local promo time -- in a traditional network airing of an episode.

PBS also has done deals with Joost, and has run clips on But on iTunes, PBS shows are just like everyone else's - no advertising at all. Viewers just need to pay $1.99 an episode.

Perhaps even more telling, the Internet has PBS looking to get aggressive saleswise. It'll set up its own advertising sales staff for online efforts. PBS needs this effort to help boost revenues against long-time Federal cutbacks.

Is there a danger the high production levels of PBS programming will be lowered?

That has always been an issue at PBS, even way back in the early '90s when some of the underwriting announcements started looking more like plain old sponsorship and advertising deals.

Now that PBS has moved almost fully into the advertising-supported world, what will viewers think now? Or does it really matter? 



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