PBS FY14 draft budget has $11M content hike, no dues increase, thanks to income influx

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PBS’s year-to-date financial results show a net income of $22 million instead of the estimated $100,000 net loss anticipated in its fiscal year 2013 budget, the PBS Board of Directors heard at their meeting April 9 at headquarters in Arlington, Va.

“I may never get to say this again, but that’s pretty impressive,” said Molly Corbett Broad, finance committee chair.

Thanks to the influx, PBS’s FY14 budget contains an increase of $11 million for National Program Service content without a hike in dues for member stations.

The draft budget, unanimously approved by the finance committee and full board, will arrive at public television stations in the coming weeks for comment. Total member assessment is $185.5 million, the same as FY13.

Broad explained that the 2013 windfall was “primarily driven” by four factors: higher income from PBS Distribution (PBSd) due in part to the “tremendous success” of Masterpiece’s megahit Downton Abbey; ancillary revenues from PBS Kids’s properties; short-term investment gains; and more overhead reimbursements from grants.

Income from PBSd, the network’s joint distribution/sales partnership with Boston’s WGBH, comes from video-on-demand services such as Amazon Prime Instant Video and Netflix, digital-download services such as iTunes, and hard-copy video sales of DVDs, said Jan McNamara, PBS spokesperson. Due to the need for working capital and PBSd’s business cycle, the cash distribution of the earnings lag behind the revenue recognition, she added.

At the meeting, Broad said priorities in the FY14 budget are strengthening content to create a “compelling, diverse schedule” that gives stations opportunities to grow audiences and membership rolls; scalable fundraising tools, services and training to help attract local support “beyond on-air drives”; continued development of digital products and services; and maintaining reliable distribution channels while exploring future distribution models.

The proposed FY14 budget shows slightly better than break-even results on a net income basis, Broad added.

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