Brie Hits The Fan As PBS Says It Will Run Ads During Shows

Last Updated Jun 1, 2011 5:57 PM EDT

No kidding.
PBS has determined that in order to keep up with changing viewer habits it needs to interrupt its programs with ads. I am not making that up. Next: The PBS infomercial. Whoops, forgot -- they already have pledge week.

According to The New York Times (and if anyone is going to get a PBS story right they are): "The longest period of uninterrupted programming, according to a plan shown to the programmers, would be just under 15 minutes, compared with the current 50 minutes or more."

Which just goes to show public broadcasting is behind the curve as usual. Scientists estimate that the average American has an attention span of 1.5 Kardashians which works out to about 45 seconds.

In a bid to get its non-Sesame Street viewership into the high four figures, PBS will first roll out these regularly scheduled sponsor funding enhancement devices on the shows NOVA and Nature. They should have put them on The News Hour -- I doubt its viewer would have complained. All PBS ads -- sorry, sponsorship pitches! -- are currently squeezed into the eight minutes between shows. Apparently when that block hits viewers change channels faster than you can say, "Ken Burns presents."

Back to the NYT: "Even before the plan became public last week, it was being intensely debated among PBS station executives." I'm imagining a food fight with chardonnay, brie and croissants. A very sedate food fight. One executive said he expects this will elicit viewer complaints. RUN FOR THE HILLS! People will be returning tote bags en masse.
Not all shows will be subject to interruption. Masterpiece Theater is unlikely to give you time for a sprint to the bathroom. Antiques Roadshow is another matter.
Wait, they're going to interrupt the Roadshow!?!? That does it. I am not going to donate twice as much as I didn't donate last year. Unless my This Old House coffee mug gets a chip in it.


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    Constantine von Hoffman is a freelance writer and writing coach. His work has appeared in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, NPR, Sierra magazine, Brandweek, CIO, The Boston Herald,, CSO, and Boston Magazine.