Pledge results reported by public TV stations from recently concluded on-air fundraisers were down 20 percent to 25 percent from the March 2012 drive, according to Kristen Kuebler, director of station research for Arizona-based TRAC Media.
For most stations, the March fund drive is typically the biggest of the year, and revenues generated from it influence budgeting for the next fiscal year.
Stations reported to TRAC and PBS that audience response to the latest pledge shows was tepid at best. The top-performing show among TRAC’s client stations was Magic Moments: The Best of ’50s Pop, a program that was first released for public TV broadcasts in 2005. It brought in 8 percent of all pledges, below their strongest show from the March 2012 drive: a self-help special from motivational speaker Wayne Dyer, Wishes Fulfilled, that generated 11 percent of total dollars raised by TRAC stations.
The drive was especially difficult for stations relying on prerecorded “virtual” pledge breaks, Kuebler said. Some stations reported that pledge receipts dropped as much as 50 percent from 2012, she added.
Many stations found success by pledging around programs from signature PBS series. The American Masters documentary Johnny Carson: King of Late Night performed “much better than pledge offers” for several stations that produced live and local pitch breaks, Kuebler said.
Oregon Public Broadcasting found success by presenting a new Nova documentary “Earth from Space,” which debuted on PBS in February, said John Bell, director of membership and communications at OPB.
OPB delayed the documentary’s local premiere and put special promotional muscle behind its debut as a pledge program. The show raised $27,100 from 330 donors in its first broadcast, scheduled in Nova’s regular Wednesday timeslot; an additional $11,565 came in from three more airings.