A Spanish-language channel in development at New York’s WNET has joined three previously announced channels that public TV stations may broadcast next year to supplement their local DTV multicasting schedules.
Public TV leaders described the four proposed digital program streams, including the new Viva TV channel, as they marked the effective date of public TV’s digital cable carriage agreement with the cable industry.
To some extent all four services unveiled Oct. 12  at the National Press Club are works-in-progress: They still need to complete distribution deals, design program lineups and find funding. The plans nevertheless demonstrate public TV’s optimism about DTV, said APTS President John Lawson. “The digital television future that we’ve all been talking about is here on display,” he said.
Executives from PBS, American Public Television and WNET described concepts for services to begin national distribution next year:
Like World, Create was developed by WGBH and WNET as a local multicast service. APT, distributor of numerous how-to shows, has since joined the partnership and will offer the feed nationally. “This is a win for viewers who want their favorite programs at different times,” Fenneman said. PubTV outlets reaching nearly 60 percent of TV households have licensed rights to carry Create, including stations in 15 of the top 25 markets.
In the expanding menu of digital services, Viva TV marks the biggest departure for public TV. Unlike other multicast streams catering to the niche tastes of current audiences, it targets the growing population of Spanish-speaking viewers, an audience that has few high-quality programs to choose from, DiRienzo said. “It’s certainly in the public broadcasting mission to bring that to a growing part of the population.”
She pointed to the projected increase of Spanish-speakers in the United States, expected to reach 25 percent of the total population in 2020. Fourteen percent of the population is now Hispanic, according to a 2004 Census Bureau survey.
Program deals for Viva are pending and DiRienzo declined to say where WNET would acquire programs. “There are a variety of quality sources for programs, and Viva will include, but not be limited to, productions or co-productions of PBS programs.”
APTS convened the news conference to mark the effective date of the digital carriage agreement negotiated between public TV and the National Cable Television Association. On Oct. 12, every major cable system was to begin voluntary carriage of an analog channel and up to four digital program streams from at least one public TV station in its market. Phase two of the agreement, which requires cable operators to carry the digital signals of all public TV stations in their markets, kicks in at the end of the DTV conversion, when broadcasters begin turning off their analog signals. The agreement guarantees carriage if pubTV stations limit the number of programs carried on more than one station in the market.
“I’ve said before that DTV is public television’s great second chance,” Lawson said. “If we do it right, public television can have an even greater impact on American society in the digital age than we’ve been able to achieve in the one-channel analog world.... Today marks another major step towards seizing that second chance.”
Lesli Rotenberg, PBS senior v.p. of brand management and promotion, will spearhead a PBS task force charged with developing new PBS Kids service strategies, PBS President Pat Mitchell announced Oct. 7 . A cross-disciplinary team of PBS staffers will be appointed to the task force, charged with ratcheting up plans for what Mitchell described as the “Next Generation PBS Kids.”
The task force has three assignments: developing a five-year plan to reposition PBS’s children’s services to compete for viewers and incorporate new technologies; creating new branding for PBS’s service for preschool children; and charting the launch of PBS Kids Go!, a proposed 24-hour multicast channel for school-age children. PBS plans to unveil the new preschool brand and launch PBS Kids Go! in fall 2006.
“This is not about branding — it is a much broader assignment,” Rotenberg said. “This is about development of a strategy and business model and an alignment of all the things we do in children’s media.” Increased competition for child audiences — and the blurring of lines that distinguish PBS Kids from commercial cable kidsnets — warrant the special focus, she said.
posted Oct. 18, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Current Publishing Committee