APT contest will award production funds for new pledge shows

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Lee Holden instructs viewers in "Qi Gong for Anxiety," an American Public Television pledge program. APT is searching for new fundraising shows with its APT PitchFest.

American Public Television hopes to remedy a dearth of innovative fundraising shows with its new APT PitchFest initiative.

Creators of pledge programs will vie for $75,000 in production funds during 7-minute presentations Nov. 8 at APT’s annual Fall Marketplace in Baltimore. The winner will be announced on stage following the pitches.

In annual APT surveys, GMs, chief content officers and programmers often cite a greater variety of successful pledge programs as “one of their key needs,” said APT President Cynthia Fenneman. “It’s a constant demand to fuel on-air membership,” she said. APT’s Premium service offers client stations pledge content.

“It’s challenging for all who provide pledge programs to find the blockbusters, the successful ones that will deliver large numbers of new members, re-ignite lapsed members and excite current members to renew or become sustainers,” Fenneman said.

“While some in the system are working to find ways to re-invent pledge in ways beyond on-air content,” she added, APT is looking for “promising programs that will have the touchstones for success, with an innovative twist in approach, content, thank-you gift, content extension or other aspect.”

Eligible programs can be in any stage of creation, from idea to production. APT staff will conduct a first round of judging. Fenneman said they will look at aspects of each project including marketability, production timeline, availability of streaming rights and plans for social media.

Up to four finalists will then pitch ideas to a panel of judges on stage in front of the Fall Marketplace crowd. Pitches will earn ratings from 1 (“Not at all appropriate, or potentially damaging to public media brand image”) to 10 (“Excellent, world class, game-changing, mind-blowingly brilliant”).

APT hopes to present the new fundraising programs to client stations in fall 2019 or spring 2020. If the first PitchFest is popular, APT could focus on additional genres in the future, Fenneman said, such as lifestyle or documentary programs.

Deadline for submissions is Sept. 26. More information is available on APT’s website.

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