WGBH has begun distributing its monthly program guide, Explore!, in a package that brings video and audio promos along with it to iPad tablets. It can also use Wi-Fi to pull in updated “live listings” from the Web even after it’s in the viewers’ hands.
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.
The late French Chef Julia Child is getting a burst of extra attention with the Aug. 7 release of Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep as pubTV’s breakthrough, endearingly unpretentioius cooking teacher. So both PBS and WGBH, Child’s earliest pubTV home, are capitalizing on the movie debut with an online compilation, an in-person panel recorded for the Web, and a retrospective August pledge special. PBS’s video portal just launched an online anthology of five French Chef episodes, eight of Baking with Julia and 13 of Julia Child Cooking with Master Chefs. A related “Bon Appetit Collection” page holds 13 Made in Spain programs and 23 segments from Everyday Food, including recipes and cooking tips.