In July, PBS announced that they had reached a carriage deal with YouTube TV. This is the first deal with a Live TV Streaming Service for PBS, which has been one of the last major holdouts from live streaming.
The channel is now available to 75% of households, including New York, Indianapolis, Columbus, Seattle and San Francisco. While 100 member stations are currently available, more are expected to become available in 2020. All YouTube TV customers can access on-demand content from PBS and PBS Kids.
The launch brings not only PBS, but also PBS Kids to the streaming service. The sub-channels that are available on some PBS affiliates, like Create TV and World Channel, are not available, at least initially.
Last year, PBS shared the holdup is that streaming services want a national feed, but PBS’ Chief Digital Officer Ira Rubenstein said: “…that doesn’t work for us.” PBS was looking to be treated like a local network affiliate where member channels can also show their local content. By coming to a deal for all member stations, they can now freely choose whether they want to join the service.
Under the agreement with YouTube TV, stations will have different options to distribute their channel. The simplest option is to just provide local streaming of those shows cleared for live streaming. Alternatively, PBS will deliver local programming with a digitally inserted station ID. The final option would be a national feed, similar to what FOX provides to some streamers, which only includes national programming.
While this deal has come with its share of problems, it seems this is the prime opportunity for PBS to find room in the streaming arena. As more and more people are cord cutting, obsoletion becomes a real risk for the public television broadcaster.