PBS Continues its Commercial Push

PBS isn’t sliding—it’s running down the slippery slope of advertising. Here’s what Advertising Age reported: “”For marketers with $1.5 million to spare, PBS is co-branding video shorts, or interstitials, to promote the flagship documentary series “American Experience.” The video shorts, which will run nationally, will mark the first time PBS has allowed advertiser-tagged interstitials to appear on its public-broadcasting affiliates. In addition to having their names attached to the 12 short program segments illustrating historic moments in American history, sponsors will be offered a podcast presence. And while PBS certainly limits what an advertiser can do on its stations, the sponsorship group is sweetening its deals. The premiere sponsor of “American Experience,” for example, will be featured at a screening at the Sundance film festival and will get exposure at a branded screening event in New York. Ms. Hertz said PBS had become much more responsive to advertiser needs in recent months, and she said the network can get spots on and off air much more quickly than before. “We are much more flexible,” she said. “Something other than 12-month sponsorships are up for discussion.”

Such commercial moves require greater reflection from PBS President Kerger and the board. We know money for programming is tight. But a short-term `let make an ad deal’ mentality won’t fix the problem. Articulating a serious programming presence (online and off) might.

Source: “Toyota Drops Out of `Antique Roadshow’—PBS Sales Group Is on the Hunt for Sponsors.” Claire Atkinson. Advertising Age. September 25, 2006.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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