PBS stations roll out localized live streams on YouTube TV

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More than 100 public TV licensees launched live streams of their broadcast channels on YouTube TV Tuesday, initiating rollout of PBS’ agreement with the live and on-demand subscription service owned by Google.

YouTube TV is the first over-the-top live streaming provider to partner with public television. PBS expects more stations to join the platform next year, but declined to provide a timeline to Current.

The deal, announced this summer after months of negotiations and consultations with stations, provided three options for stations to deliver live feeds to YouTube, including a PBS-packaged feed that would be localized with branding inserts. Most stations chose the option to provide live streams of their local broadcast channels, according to PBS. This option required clearing live linear streaming rights for at least 90% of the programs in a station’s schedule.

Lakeland PBS in Bemidji, Minn., is among the PBS members that launched with a fully localized stream, according to GM Bill Sanford. The station has secured rights to all but one program, he said. Lakeland PBS will drop that show early next year. With the change, the station will achieve clearances for 100% of its schedule.

“We are happy with the current situation and are anxious for the next phase of national interconnection,” Sanford told Current. With that technical upgrade, PBS will “add the capability for system-wide carriage of local stations’ live streams by any and all OTT providers interested in doing so,” he said.

Additional PBS members stations now available on YouTube TV include Idaho Public Television, Vegas PBS, ideastream’s WVIZ in Cleveland and WNET in New York, which also operates WLIW in Long Island, N.Y., and New Jersey’s NJTV.

PBS Utah in Salt Lake City, which also launched this week, has achieved 90% clearance for its program schedule, said GM James Morgese. Since the station uses a joint master control to run its broadcast service, KUED is packaging the live stream with black-outs for uncleared programs and paying for the feed’s delivery to YouTube TV. KUED is among the group of major market pubcasters that won’t have to pay YouTube TV for the first two years of the agreement, Morgese said. 

Content providers American Public Television and the National Educational Telecommunications Association, as well as the BBC and British drama repository Acorn TV, cleared live linear streaming rights to the programs they distribute to local stations.

At launch, the YouTube TV deal added stations’ primary channels, the PBS Kids service and on-demand programs to the live-streaming options of viewers in more than 75% of U.S. households.

Lori Conkling, global head of partnerships at YouTube TV, said in a news release that “PBS and PBS Kids are highly requested channels by our users, and we’re thrilled to be able to add these to the YouTube TV lineup.” A subscription to the service starts at $50, according to the company.

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