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Could PBS Be Coming to Your Favorite Streaming Service?

One of the channels that has been nowhere to be seen on Live TV Streaming Services is PBS.

In a report by Current this week, they spoke with PBS’ Chief Digital Officer Ira Rubenstein to understand why they haven’t made it into the skinny bundle.

Part of the holdup is that streaming services want a national feed, but Rubenstein says: “…that doesn’t work for us.” PBS is looking to be treated like a local network affiliate where member channels can also show their local content.

Some chapters are worried that if PBS doesn’t get on vMVPDs soon, than they may be left out of the bundle completely.

This has led to PBS assembling an advisory group of local chapters including KUED (Salt Lake City), KQED (San Francisco), WGBH (Boston, and WNET (New York City) to help evaluate their next steps.

With rights fully cleared for streaming, one of the quickest ways would be offer a 24/7 PBS Kids channel. While this would be a good start to build a presence, it is not necessarily what viewers want.

PBS is considering three options:

  • A phased rollout that will bring local affiliates to skinny bundles as rights get approved
  • A national feed with local affiliate branding, replaced by local feeds when available
  • A new feed with PBS content exclusively designed for streaming services

The first two are similar to how streaming services have been handling local FOX affiliates. FOX has a service called FOXNet that provides national programming supplemented with content from their cable channels.

As local FOX affiliates become available, streaming services have been removing FOXNet and replacing it with their local affiliate.

In the mean time, PBS does offer a on demand service called PBS Passport. For $60/year you get access to episodes from PBS programs like American Experience, American Masters, Antiques Roadshow, Nature, NOVA, and Masterpiece — including all six seasons of Downton Abbey.

But when it comes to live streaming, it is yet to be seen what approach PBS will take. But Rubenstein is right, if they don’t move fast — they might not be part of the streaming bundle at all.


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