PBS Launches Video Portal

Apr 22nd, 2009 | By | Category: Streaming Video, Video

The public television network PBS is taking some of its viewers’ favorite programs and making them available via its newly-launched video portal, PBS.org/video.  Today’s debut of the streaming site marks the first time that programming from a variety of series producers has been available in from one location.

The new video site features a broad range of the network’s programming, including current popular series Frontline and Antiques Roadshow, and classic old cooking shows from the late Julia Child. PBS itself will provide some of the content, and the network’s member stations which produce some of their own series will also stream shows on the site. I am especially excited about things like Sir Ian McKellen as Shakespeare’s King Lear, pictured right.

PBS’ video site is reminiscent of Hulu, which streams a wide variety of current-season commercial-network programming, along with nostalgic old series. There is a snazzy interface for paging through episodes, searching by series or by topic (like today’s “Earth Day” featured collection of environment-themed episodes of different series). Users can also search by most viewed and most e-mailed shows.

Another cool feature that may be utilized more in days to come is the capacity for users to submit their own videos, in response to network content on the site.

The New York Times reports that some content will only be available for limited periods (namely, documentarian Ken Burns’ work) concurrent with terrestrial/cable airing of the programs. Other current and classic programming will not be available through the site at all, depending on PBS syndication and rebroadcast agreements with the individual shows’ producers. It looks as though many of the great old dramatic series fall into this category.

It will be interesting to see how this video portal changes viewership at PBS. Many viewers now want the flexibility to not just time-shift their TV watching (a la TiVO), but also to device- and location-shift their media consumption. One supposes that it will be beneficial for the network, its sponsors/underwriters, and the viewers as well: producers of the ABC network hit “Lost” recently reported that, in March 2009, users viewed over thirty million streams of the show. That’s a lot of viewers who might otherwise have not seen the show, had it not been made available online.

One wonders, though, how and whether the local member stations will benefit from this shift online. When viewers shift their attention away from the terrestrial station (and its on-air fundraising seasons), how does the website profit them? Stations in larger markets (KQED in San Francisco and WGBH in Boston spring to mind) produce and nationally syndicate some fantastic series. But, for example, our Iowa Public Television’s local business/agriculture series have only regional appeal (and minimal fundraising capacity).

How will this shift online affect these stations?

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No Responses to “PBS Launches Video Portal”

  1. Thank you for the kind words and commentary on the new PBS Video site, you’ve summarized a lot of the key reasons why we’ve been able to build and present this fantastic content for our audience.

    Key to any media company right now, and extremely important for public media especially is to enable you to watch and interact with our content whenever and wherever you want.

    Of utmost importance to PBS is our local stations across the country, behind the pretty interface on the new video portal lies a robust video infrastructure that will open up a lot of opportunities for stations to not only surface and blend local content with national content, but also potentially share and exchange video with other stations as well.

    -Jonathan Coffman, PBS Engage

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