PBS Board adopts tiered pricing model for top sponsorships

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The PBS Board approved a more flexible tiered pricing model for top underwriting deals at its meeting Tuesday.

The board’s Corporate Support Advisory Committee recommended the change after six months of research. “Our inventory is overpriced,” committee Chair Kliff Kuehl, CEO of KCPT in Kansas City, Mo., said during a committee meeting Monday.

Current prices for 30-second spots, set in 2004, are $1.5 million for series and $250,000 for specials. Those are “significantly higher” than other broadcasting and cable rates, he said.

National and station sales teams also “wanted greater flexibility” in pricing, Kuehl said.

The committee recommended that the board adopt a tiered pricing system, with new thresholds to be set by PBS management.

“The overarching goal is this pricing model is to be more aligned to the broader media landscape and more flexible and responsive to reacting to that landscape while preserving PBS’ core noncommercial mission,” Kuehl said. “Our goal is to increase underwriting for the national schedule using this more nimble approach.”

The board unanimously passed the new model.

The board also heard from PBS President Paula Kerger that the new sIX interconnection system is nearing a major milestone: The old non–real-time satellite transponder will be turned off Jan. 2.

“We are delivering sIX on time and on budget after a huge effort within PBS and across the system,” Kerger said.

PBS Chief Technology Officer Mario Vecchi told the interconnection committee Monday that as of Friday, 84 stations were up and running on sIX.

“It’s increasing by the hour,” Vecchi said. “They’re coming on fast.”

Two of the three joint master services stations went live last week, Vecchi said, representing 38 stations. The final joint master will bring on 20 more stations and is scheduled to connect this week.

The board also unanimously approved changes to PBS’ policy for members in multistation markets, the first major update since the Program Differentiation Plan was created in 1995.

The new policy:

  • Limits PDP membership to the current 17 stations;
  • Requires PDP stations to seek PBS Board approval to transition to full-service and demonstrate “extraordinary circumstances” to do so;
  • Restricts PDP stations from airing new PBS fundraising programs until one pledge drive after release to full member stations;
  • Requires PDP stations to carry “mission-based” programming, such as Independent Lens or arts content, for 10 percent of prime time; and
  • Provides PDP stations with access to Passport, the video-on-demand service that has been a strong fundraiser for primary stations.

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