Increase relevance to attract younger, BIPOC and lower- income viewers

Can public media attract a diverse, younger, and lower-income earning audience by increasing its relevance? One groundbreaking new series is proving it is the unicorn and measuring the results.

Opportunity Knock$, presented by WXXI and distributed by APT, offers valuable insights for stations and producers, as it drives its own audience to public television.

Three tips to increase relevance and attract younger, BIPOC and lower-income viewers:

  1.  Reflect the Audience: With 64% of people living paycheck to paycheck and 42% on survival budgets, younger, diverse, and lower-income viewers need to see their reality reflected in content for it to be relevant. More than just diversifying the voices of culture and public affairs, reflecting the everyday challenges viewers under 50 face is needed to overcome the perception that PBS is just Masterpiece Theater (a show that we love, BTW)!
  2. Activate Education: Emerging technology can activate educational content to create direct impacts and outcomes for viewers. Public media can be a pioneer in this field. That is why Opportunity Knock$ created The Opportunity Finder. Stations broadcasting the series can also place the software code on their websites to connect viewers directly to local nonprofits.
  3. On The Go: Time is everything to younger, lower-income earning and BIPOC viewers. Many younger viewers watch content on mobile devices. While these viewers won’t drive Passport membership immediately, they are the future and connecting with them is essential. Select a few relevant programs to provide outside of Passport membership. Give them a reason to become members. If they can’t see it, they’ll never support, and they aren’t watching broadcast television.

How is Opportunity Knock$ becoming the unicorn?

Opportunity Knock$ employed behavioral scientists to tell producers how to make the program ‘not boring’. “Our initial approach would not have worked,” shared creator and executive producer, Jamie Strayer. “The behavioral economists advised that the diversified audience would only come if we created our educational content in a format they are excited to watch.” Strayer and executive producer Jenn George Hunter recruited prime-time Emmy nominated reality television producer, Brian Spoor, who worked on 66 unscripted programs including Big Brother and Undercover Billionaire.

Presenting station WXXI believed in the approach and understood that the slick content was intentional to achieve the goal of changing viewers’ lives. “Opportunity Knock$ exemplifies the mission of public television, and WXXI Public Media is proud to present the series to our PTV community,” praised Norm Silverstein, President & CEO, WXXI Public Media. “The show not only guides the featured families to a brighter financial future, but every viewer as well. This is the kind of educational and entertaining content public television was made for.”

The approach to engaging the diverse audience and using technology to activate the impacts of its educational content is working. Since its Season One release and carriage on PBS Passport and WORLD, Opportunity Knock$ has connected more than 30,000 people with local nonprofits. The show’s companion software, The Opportunity Finder, helps viewers like Patricia Reyes, a single mother to six children who faced homelessness. The show’s financial coach, Louis Barajas, helped her navigate the complex challenges, and The Opportunity Finder guided her to foreclosure prevention in her own community.

“Opportunity Knock$ saved my home,” Patricia Reyes told WXXI’s Evan Dawson during his local NPR series Connections. Reyes also became a U.S. Citizen. “I voted in my first election because I used The Opportunity Finder.” Barajas claims no other TV show is doing that for people.

It turns out that the content is also valuable to existing PBS station members. Strayer cites the United Way’s research that most Americans (64%) are struggling to make ends meet. “This content is needed by the children and grandchildren of public television members, and the parents of children watching PBS Kids,” shared Strayer who started in local underwriting at KBTC. She returned to public media after writing over $1 billion in federal grants and encourages local stations to use The Opportunity Finder’s measurable impacts to support capital campaigns.

Opportunity Knock$ also attracts new viewers with viral influencers. Producers selected coaches appealing to younger, more diverse viewers. Patrice Washington’s history on the Steve Harvey show and the 15 million downloads of her Redefining Wealth podcast draw that new, diverse audience to public media offering Opportunity Knock$. Louis Barajas is a financial advisor to Latina pop music stars who use social media to promote the series. Jean Chatzky formerly of the NBC Today Show appeals to all audiences.

Opportunity Knock$ made itself relevant to readers, listeners, and viewers of other media to bring the new audience to public television. Feature stories in Newsweek, Ebony Magazine, BELatina, Nerdwallet, Variety Magazine, Psychology Today, Yahoo Finance, Queer Money and morning show appearances on 150 ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates all directed new audiences to watch Opportunity Knock$ on public television.  

By addressing the needs of the viewers we want to attract, public media can become even more relevant to the viewers of today and tomorrow. How can we not increase our relevance to younger, more diverse audiences?

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