PBS’ digital domain

Pubcaster eyes multiple content outlets

Expect pubcasting to be a player in digital television, new PBS prexy Paula Kerger said in her first public speech.

Just as commercial nets are planning to develop multiple distribution platforms for digital content when airwaves go all-DTV in February 2009, pubcasters “recognize the need to make content available” via MP3, cell phone and Internet stream as well as television, Kerger told a Media Institute luncheon Monday.

Kerger also talked about creating a “digital archive” of PBS shows, such as docs by Ken Burns, which could be accessed “on demand,” initially for free, by schools and educators. She did not elaborate on whether there would later be a charge.

The main objective, she said, is to establish pubcasting in the digital age as a “whatever you want, whenever you want it” network.

Unlike commercial nets, PBS has already cut a digital multicast deal with major cablers and satcasters, who have agreed to carry four (and possibly more) DTV channels that a pubcasting station can transmit. Kerger announced that John Lawson, head of the Assn. of Public Television Stations, is currently discussing a similar deal with smaller cable operators.

Kerger is hoping the proliferation of distrib platforms will stimulate “whole new” kinds of programming on pubcasting, particularly for children. “We need to make sure that PBS is there to provide good, wholesome content” for kids, she said. “We really need to think of children’s media in a more expansive way.”

“PBS’ brightest days are ahead of us,” Kerger continued. “I think we will flourish in the digital age.”