Chart showing planned rearrangement of the PBS primetime hour

Flow plan would push spots deeper into PBS hours

The traditional pledge-drive mantra brags about a piece of public television’s ancestral DNA: “PBS — your home for quality, uninterrupted programming.”

So the public reacted fairly predictably when PBS announced at this month’s annual meeting in Orlando that it’s considering internal promotional spots as part of its primetime revamp. As one blogger quipped, “Even though it wouldn’t involve actual commercials, I honestly think that Fred Rogers wouldn’t be happy with this idea.”

But some public TV programmers have responded more with curiosity than with outrage. They realize that the PBS schedule loses hundreds of thousands of viewers between shows and has for years. And by clustering compatible programs, as PBS plans to do for the fall, stations can retain more viewers through the station break. The audience isn’t keen on sitting through the present hodgepodge of video snippets between shows: some eight minutes of national and local underwriting spots, promos, program credits, network and station branding and teases.