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PBS World expands digital reach

Channel added to 55 stations in August

NEW YORK — PBS is rolling out PBS World, its 3-year-old 24-hour documentary and public affairs channel, on 55 digital stations in August, adding several large markets including Los Angeles, Cleveland and Tampa.

Launched in 2004, the channel was initially carried only in New York, Boston and Springfield, MA, markets where the PBS affiliate had made the conversion to digital. In 2006, PBS added Washington, DC.

But in August PBS is stations reaching 27% of U.S. households for the channel, which is the pubcaster’s play to capitalize on the additional spectrum its stations have at their disposal after the conversion to digital.

PBS World carries PBS series such as “Frontline,” “Nature,” and “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer,” as well as PBS-produced docs such as Ken Burns’ “The War,” a seven-night series airing this fall.

“We see it as a place to expand the exposure of PBS shows on the schedule, but also include content we would not be able to accommodate on a single channel,” said PBS programming chief John Wilson.

The additional channel will allow PBS to give multiple airings to series like Burns’ “War,” as well as specials responding to news events, including extended elections coverage.

PBS stations that have made the transition to digital can carry the channel, and negotiate with their respective cable and satellite operators to carry it on a digital tier of their systems.

PBS stations reach more than 99% of the country, but not all have yet made the transition to digital. Wilson said he expects PBS World to reach full national distribution by the time the FCC mandates the shut-down of analog broadcasts and the conversion to digital in Feb. 2009.

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