CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation Fund weekly series RFP

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Three years after Latino activists bitterly criticized Ken Burns’s The War for omitting interviews with Hispanic soldiers and sailors, CPB and PBS concluded negotiations to create a Diversity and Innovation Fund to seed new productions, Current reported. PBS issued this RFP on its website.

CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation Fund
Request for Proposals
Weekly, Primetime Television Series


This RFP, the first from the Diversity and Innovation Fund, is designed to solicit proposals to provide the NPS with a new, weekly, primetime series – content that will expand viewership and usage, reaching an adult audience on-air and online that reflects the diversity of the 40-64 year old US population. Specifically, the DI Fund seeks to:

  • Diversify the NPS by attracting more racially and ethnically diverse viewers and Web visitors within the target demographic;
  • Expand the current NPS audience through the increased use of content created by a diverse group of producers and through the effective use of new and emerging technologies;
  • Leverage the talent and creativity of executive producers and producers from minority and underserved communities;
  • Build capacity for the public media system from within those communities; and
  • Encourage innovation in the planning, production and distribution of public media content.

The content should be conceived and budgeted with multiple-platform use (broadcast, VOD, Internet, mobile, DVD, etc.) in mind from the outset.  As producers develop their proposals and ultimately their pilot programs, they should consider not only the traditional broadcast components but also the digital strategy which may include web presence, mobile applications, social media, inclusion in the Digital Learning Library and/or PBS Teachers, etc.

The RFP encourages proposals for a variety of popular genres, including science, history, travel, natural history and exploration.  This RFP is *not* seeking children’s, drama or news and public affairs content, as these subject areas are being addressed via other initiatives and/or existing properties.  The RFP encourages proposals to include characteristics embodied by “The Explorer” archetype – a psychographic audience target aligned with core NPS values and validated by CPB audience research.  (See detail on The Explorer archetype following the RFP.)

Sustainable costs are key to the success of any new or continuing series.  We are asking applicants to submit proposals for a series of 10 episodes that can be produced for $375,000 per hour (or less) with attendant rights that allow for the efficient use of the content on all distribution platforms.  The intent is to “pilot” several projects.  One or more will then be selected for series production.

To better reach the target audience, each television-centered, multi-platform project budget should include an appropriate level of funding for marketing across all platforms.  Similarly, to maximize impact, each project budget should include an appropriate level of funding for meaningful and measurable engagement plans.  Partnerships are encouraged.  Producers should consider working closely with the National Center for Media Engagement (NCME) and public radio to develop and implement engagement plans.

The cost of promotion, outreach, station relations, new media deployment (exclusive of rights) and publicity do not have to be included in the $375,000/hour target, but should be factored into the overall project budget.

Planned Outcomes:

  • An expanded pool of new and diverse content creators and editorial leaders;
  • Content that reaches an audience that is measurably more diverse, while reaching a broad general audience target at or above PBS’s primetime average.
  • Distribution of content through existing and emerging public media infrastructure;
  • Innovative use of technology to support content identification and selection;
  • Increased use of low-cost production models; and
  • Innovative use of digital media techniques and services that enhance the ability for content to be found via search, syndication and social networks.


  • Tuesday, June 22, 2010 – this request for proposals issued
  • Monday, July 26, 2010 – PBS begins accepting proposals
  • Wednesday, September 15, 2010 – all proposals are to be received by PBS by 5:00 p.m. ET
  • Friday, October 15, 2010 – by this date, PBS in collaboration with CPB, will compile a short list of projects identified for further consideration  (Proposals will be evaluated by PBS staff in consultation with CPB, and all producers will be notified as to the status of their submissions.)
  • Monday, October 18, 2010– Short list of projects identified for further consideration (the written proposals) will be made available online for comment from the public.
  • Monday, November 1 through Wednesday, November 24, 2010 – CPB and PBS will meet with short-list producers, give notes, request additional information, etc.
  • Monday, December 6, 2010 – PBS will alert finalists.  Contracting for selected pilots begins.  Pre-production/production to begin in winter 2010/2011

Pilots will be reviewed by PBS and CPB staff and online by the public, as well as through more formalized testing.  Following these reviews, PBS will determine which, if any, of the pilots will be broadcast and/or move forward for full production funding.


Submission of Proposals

The DI Fund will only accept hard-copy (printed) submissions. Submissions will be accepted beginning Monday, July 26, 2010.  Specify “DI Fund Submission” in the address.  Please provide two (2) copies of each proposal.  All submissions must include a completed Submission Summary and Release form.

Anticipated information includes:

1. Title;

2.  Rationale for how the project addresses the objectives of the DI Fund and its appeal to the target audience; specific research or insights as to why this program will be successful in reaching the target audience;

3.  Project description, including a description of all uses on a variety of platforms and (where appropriate) in classrooms via the PBS Digital Learning Library;

4.  Key personnel and partnerships;

5. Marketing and engagement plans, including social media strategy;

6.  Timeline, based on spring 2011 delivery date; and

7. Itemized budget, including rights costs for all proposed platforms.


Proposals should be directed to:
Steven Gray
Vice President, Program Development and Editorial Management
PBS – DI Fund Submission
2100 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA  22202

The Explorer Archetype

Research shows the most successful brands embody a single archetype. To define and fully leverage PBS’s brand, we are employing Archetypal Branding, a proven strategy in which an organization aligns all activities behind a single unifying concept. We believe adopting this strategy will help us increase audience engagement, raise money and build brand loyalty.

What are Archetypes?

Archetypes are universally recognized images or themes found in art, literature, myths, legends and stories. People are intuitively drawn to archetypes, no matter where they encounter them.

In Archetypal Branding, the archetype that most closely aligns with a brand’s most compelling value is used to guide the organization’s decision-making, products, services and identity. For example, although Disney has a wide range of products and services, its brand consistently reflects The Magician archetype. Other examples include Harley Davidson, which embodies The Outlaw; Oprah Winfrey, The Sage; and Johnson & Johnson, The Caregiver.

PBS’s Archetype: The Explorer

Eighteen months of extensive consumer research and brand analysis determined PBS, at its best, embodies The Explorer archetype. In three independent research studies, we learned PBS’s most compelling value is that our content and services offer everyone, from every walk of life, opportunities to explore new worlds and new ideas and broaden personal horizons, especially in ways that might otherwise not be possible. Research shows this is an important motivator for the people who support us. Commercial brands embodying The Explorer archetype include Amazon.com, Trader Joe’s and Apple; public service brands include the National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution.

Applying Archetypal Branding at PBS

PBS must wholly and consistently embody the spirit, attitude and characteristics of The Explorer archetype in everything we do – content, education services, ventures, development (major and individual giving and corporate support) and marketing, promotion and communications.

Research shows many PBS viewers have values and characteristics similar to those embodied by The Explorer. Moreover, while people respond to all archetypes, particular archetypes resonate most during certain life stages. Adults ages 40-65 strongly associate with Explorer sensibilities because their careers and families are established, allowing them to seek new opportunities for growth and fulfillment. Research shows this group also donates at a higher level than older Americans.

The Explorer Archetype and “Be more”

“The Explorer” is PBS’s internal shorthand to refer to the archetype; it is not a tagline or a campaign and does not replace “Be more.”  Our research shows “Be more” is the ideal tagline for an Explorer brand. We use the archetype to sharpen the focus of the “Be more” campaign and deliver value messages that are even more meaningful, memorable and engaging. This work helps strengthen the foundation for inspiring individual financial support of PBS stations.

Characteristics of The Explorer

Here is a closer look at characteristics of The Explorer archetype:

This is Explorer This is Not
Does it provide an “Explorer experience?” – Provides an immersive experience, transporting audiences to other times and places

– Deeply experiential – almost physical

– Engages audiences in exciting and engaging ways that leverage the power of humanity and emotion

– Assumes an audience of eager “students” passively awaiting information

– Like textbook material, delivered electronically

– Sacrifices or interrupts experience for the sake of instructing the audience

Does it leverage the richness of the Explorer experience? – Provides multiple perspectives or a multi-faceted experience

– Offers textured experiences

– Takes unexpected turns and provides surprising discoveries

– Innovative and ground breaking

– Diminishes experiences with too many facts and details

– Cerebral, but not experiential

– Follows a linear trajectory, with few surprises along the way

– Derivative or familiar

Does it fully embody the Explorer’s independence? – Fiercely independent, presenting clearly reasoned points of view

– Spirited and exciting debates

– Courageous in pursuit of the truth

– Reflects a commitment to uncompromising integrity

– Could be just another channel, program or story
Does it provide an Explorer experience for everyone? – Offers stimulating content that everyone can enjoy

– Smart and unpretentious

– Appreciates the limitations of the audience’s time and attention

– So challenging it feels like work; obtuse

– Projects an elitist attitude or tone

– Misses the opportunity to connect and engage

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