May 16, 2011

PBS previews new primetime architecture for PTPA in Orlando

Programmers got a look at PBS's new fall primetime architecture at the Public Television Programmers Association meeting taking place today (May 16) in Orlando, Fla., just before the PBS National Meeting.

PBS's John Wilson, s.v.p and chief programmer, and Shawn Halford, senior director of program scheduling, said the changes are taking place to better serve viewers looking for similar shows, build a larger potential membership base, create a stronger selling proposition for audience-focused underwriters and better leverage marketing and promotion.

Schedule changes include transitioning Nature from Sundays to Wednesdays, moving Frontline later on Tuesdays after December pledge and shifting Independent Lens and P.O.V. from Tuesdays to Thursdays. Beginning this winter, Sunday evenings will bring specials in first hour of prime, an Antiques Roadshow spinoff (still to be announced) in the second hour, and the Roadshow in hour three.

One item of discussion: PBS is shifting underwriting and station breaks from on-the-hour to several minutes into the program to pull audience along between shows. But won't that undermine one of the core values of PBS, the uninterrupted programs? Beth Walsh, senior director of PBS research, is crunching data from dial tests and focus groups held just last week, programmers were told, so more will be known once those numbers are out. A subcommittee of the PBS Board is working on how all the changes will affect common carriage.

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