TCA 2011: PBS looking to change sponsor messages
PBS wants viewers to stick around longer -- and it's seeing if fancy marketing research can help.
The public broadcasting network is experimenting with when to run sponsor messages. Typically, PBS thanks foundations and corporations for support at the beginning or end of programs. But speaking to reporters Saturday, network President and Chief Executive Paula Kerger said PBS is noodling with airing those messages at different times, in hopes of discouraging people from clicking the remote.
"We've done a little bit of dial testing at the Nielsen facility in Las Vegas," Kerger told reporters at the TV media tour in Beverly Hills. TV marketers sometimes use focus groups in which participants are given dialed meters to provide their responses to programs and commercials.
Kerger expressed envy for cable networks that smoothly transition between programs with viewers scarcely being aware of the shift, which is widely thought to keep them watching whatever network they're tuned into.
"We've had the same structure for 40 years," she said. "It's worth asking, 'Is this the best way to present programming?' "
But she added: "We wouldn't make a change without properly vetting all this." She added that she hoped the total commercial time would be less, not more, after any changes are made.
Meanwhile, Kerger gave a shout-out to Orange County's KOCE-TV Channel 50, which stepped up to become the Los Angeles area's No. 1 PBS affiliate after KCET-TV Channel 28 left the network at the beginning of the year.
"They've done an amazing job in a short period of time," Kerger said of KOCE.
-- Scott Collins
Photo: PBS Chief Executive Paula Kerger says the network wants more viewers to stay put at a media event Saturday. Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images