Finding bright spots: cloning what works in local pubTV programs

For more than 25 years, we have been studying public television stations and programming, and for all those years we sat on one of the best-kept secrets in the system. We knew that some of the most-viewed programs on public television were locally produced shows, and the responsible stations certainly knew that piece of good news. But local shows don’t show up in the national ratings, and there are very few reliable ways for people outside of those stations to see the numbers. After years of schedule-watching, we began seeing related patterns in the stations’ performance: Many of the stations with very popular local programs were among the broadcasters with the greatest success in viewership, in community partnerships, and in public support. What was the connection, we wondered?

Mix of local programs gives a pubTV station its ‘secret sauce’

Every week, we and our staff at TRAC Media Services review program performance of public television stations in the 56 markets metered by Nielsen.

Through the years, we have become accustomed to seeing local programs appear among the most popular titles on many stations. And stations with the most popular local series were among the system’s most successful. What, we wondered, was the relationship between a station’s success and its local programming? This question led to TRAC’s Local Programming Initiative, which will officially launch in October. Success has different meanings at different public television stations.