TCA 2019: PBS in Discussions With Virtual MVPDs, Says Kerger

Pasadena, Calif. — PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger said Saturday that the public broadcaster is speaking with virtual MVPDs about offering PBS content.

"We've been in discussions with them,” Kerger said during PBS’s Winter TCA executive session. “I’m not making any announcements today. But stay tuned. We definitely are in discussions. We think that's certainly a place that our viewers would appreciate."

Kerger also addressed PBS’s place among streaming giants, such as Netflix and Amazon, saying that the content PBS produces is different.

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“I think that part of the challenge that we have is making sure that we're punching through the fray so that people are aware of the programs that are on public television, that are available through their local stations,” said Kerger. “I mean there are a lot of people that go to the Netflixes and then just get lost in the jukebox effect of scrolling through lots of stuff...We look for ways to bring them into their local station.”

She added that Netflix and Amazon are not in every community but PBS stations are. 

“The more that we can continue to focus on that unique aspect of the fact that we are a media service that lives and breathes at the community level and that there's stuff there that they can't find on Netflix, that is going to be of great value,” she said. 

PBS does have content on both Netflix and Amazon as well as the public broadcaster’s own digital app. At the station level there is Passport, a service for station patrons.

"We have tried lots of different possibilities with what we've done in the streaming space and we'll continue to do so,” said Kerger. “And we'll also continue to look at the new platforms as they continue to roll out."

PBS is funded largely through Congress and has at times become a political pawn. 

"I never assume that that money is just going to come,” said Kerger. “Even though we have this long legacy of work that we have done and I think we can point to some extraordinary work that we do at the community level, it really requires each and every day for our stations to make sure that their elected officials know that this is important." 

"I think we should be asked to prove each and every year that this is important and this is where the money is invested, she added. “And we'll continue to do that."  

Kerger also fielded a question on the broadcaster’s commitment to American dramas in light of the glut of content. "If a really great project came in the door, we certainly would look at it very carefully,” she said.

Jessika Walsten

Jessika is an analyst for TVREV and Fabric Media. She previously served in various roles at Broadcasting + Cable, Multichannel News and NextTV, working with the brands since 2013. A graduate of USC Annenberg, Jessika has edited and reported on a variety of subjects in the media and entertainment space, including profiles on industry leaders and breaking news.