April 23, 2015

The Outcome of the PBS Listening Tour

Independent Lens and POV to stay on Mondays at 10pm

On the tail of a several-month, multi-city listening tour during which leaders from PBS, ITVS, POV and WNET held town hall-style meetings with members of the independent film community, PBS today announced their new strategy to increase visibility of independent film on PBS and its affiliates. The listening tour began in the Bay Area at the San Francisco Public Library thanks in part to the efforts of the IDA and partner organizations including Indie Caucus and Kartemquin Films. We are proud to have helped ignite the process of discussing how best to present ITVS' primary independent documentary film programs Independent Lens and POV.

In a press release this afternoon, PBS announced their new multi-platform strategy to showcase the best in independent filmmaking, which will draw on strategic scheduling, digital content and distribution, social media and marketing to highlight this critical content.

"After months of constructive discussion with the independent film community, we are pleased to present a new strategy that we believe will better support this important work and help us reach the younger, diverse audiences who are among the most passionate fans of indies," said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming for PBS.

Highlights from the strategy as outlined in PBS's announcement include the following:

New Programming Strategy

In addition to the Monday at 10pm broadcasts of Independent Lens and POV on most PBS stations—including THIRTEEN New York—PBS will create a number of programming events tied to independent films over the course of the 2015-2016 broadcast season. These events will pair an independent film from Independent Lens or POV with thematically related programming to optimize audience flow throughout the night.

 

Digital Initiatives

Building on the primetime broadcasts of independent film, PBS will maximize its growing digital platforms to distribute and promote independent film content. The Webby Award-nominated PBS Online Film Festival will return for a fourth year June 15-July 17, 2015, and will feature more than 20 short-form independent films from POV and a broad spectrum of public media stations and partners, including the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), National Black Programming Consortium, Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), Wisconsin Media Lab and Vision Maker Media.

 

Non-credit College Course on Documentary Film

PBS LearningMedia, a free media on-demand service from PBS and WGBH used by 1.6 million educators and reaching 30 million students, frequently offers independent film content to K-12 classrooms as an instructional tool. As part of the new strategy to support independent film, PBS, ITVS, POV and WNET will collaborate with PBS LearningMedia to create a curriculum for a non-credit college course on documentary film that highlights films from Independent Lens and POV, along with other documentaries in the PBS broadcast schedule.

 

Developing Online Indie Playlist

PBS is re-launching its independent film website, pbs.org/indiefilms, which will serve as both an archive of all feature-length and short-form independent film streaming on PBS.org and a platform to preview upcoming films that will broadcast on PBS. PBS has also created "Indie Film" playlists on its over-the-top (OTT) channels, including those on Apple TV and FireTV, so that users of these platforms can more easily find and enjoy independent film content.

 

Theatrical and Online Distribution

PBS and its distribution arm, PBS Distribution, plan to support several theatrical releases of independent films. The theatrical distribution, when combined with its broadcast on PBS stations, VOD and home entertainment distribution, will enable this critically acclaimed documentary by renowned filmmaker Stanley Nelson to reach a broad and diverse audience.

In addition, PBS Distribution has entered into a licensing agreement with Indieflix, a subscription-based streaming service for independent film. Starting in May 2015, more than 85 PBS films will be available to Indieflix's growing subscriber base.

 

"IDA is committed to the breadth of documentary storytelling from diverse voices showcased on Independent Lens and POV," said Marjan Safinia, President of the Board of Directors at the IDA. "We are encouraged by the announcement of these new strategies that promise to lift up all independent filmmakers, and better connect them with audiences around the country. America is undoubtedly richer for seeing these vital films. We look forward to hearing more details about how these programs will work for filmmakers as PBS develops them."

We have faith that PBS's new strategy will ensure that the two series and all new independent film content reach the largest possible audience nationwide. Kudos to PBS for taking the time to listen to its constituents, and for making changes based on the real needs and desires not just of its audiences, but also of its creators.

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