An option for This American Life, self-distribution dwindles among public radio producers

After This American Life parts with longtime distributor Public Radio International July 1, it could become public radio’s most widely carried show without a major distributor representing it. That’s if the show pursues that option. Program host and creator Ira Glass has hinted in interviews with the New York Times and Chicago media reporter Robert Feder that he’s considering self-distribution. But there may be good reasons that few shows have gone that route. Self-distribution poses challenges that few resource-strapped program creators are willing to take on, including handling their own billing, marketing and station relations.

PRI adds variety to program slate with acquisition of Live Wire

Public Radio International is adding the Portland, Ore.–based variety show Live Wire to its programming lineup, the distributor announced Monday. Live Wire, which bills itself as “radio variety for the ADD generation,” is independently produced and currently airs on 48 stations nationwide. PRI will take over distribution of the weekly show beginning July 1, the same day it ends distribution of its widest carried program, This American Life. “Since we started the show we were hoping to gain the attention of a national distributor,” said Robyn Tenenbaum, Live Wire co-creator and e.p. The program launched in 2004 and shops itself to stations with the help of digital distribution tools from Public Radio Exchange. Though representatives from NPR and American Public Media were “aware of us” and NPR programming VP Eric Nuzum attended a taping, PRI was the first distributor to make an offer, Tenenbaum said.

After 17 years, PRI ending distribution of This American Life

Public Radio International announced today that it will end distribution of one of its biggest titles, This American Life. The Minneapolis-based PRI has offered TAL to stations since 1997. “During our most recent negotiation, it became clear that our organizations’ expectations regarding our futures were different,” and PRI will stop distribution July 1, said Julia Yager, PRI’s head of sales, marketing and distribution, in an announcement. Yager told Current that negotiations concluded today and that PRI does not comment publicly on confidential contract discussions. In a statement posted on the TAL website, host Ira Glass said that “looking at where PRI is now pushing its business and where we’re growing — especially on the digital side of things, which we’ve always done without PRI — both we and our colleagues at PRI came to the same conclusion: to go our separate ways.”

Flatow finds more traction for ‘Science Friday’ in PRI distribution

After two decades as a weekly NPR program, the 22-year-old Science Friday is preparing to shake things up. With its move to Public Radio International distribution on Jan. 1, the talk show has ambitious plans to put its content into wider distribution through collaborations with PRI series such as The World and The Takeaway as well as with the PBS science program Nova. WGBH in Boston, which acquired PRI in 2012, is involved in production of all three major series, opening new cross-platform distribution and branding opportunities. A new educational specialist is working to turn more of Science Friday’s content into curricular materials, and PRI is exploring ways to offer its programming through PBS Learning Media, the online resource providing free media and lesson plans to K–12 educators.