BACK FROM AUSTIN-NOTES FROM THE ROAD
posted by Susie Hernandez
Pic of Tucson's treasure playing on Austin's treasure--Austin City Limits!
I just got back from Austin, TX. I was there for two conferences. The first order of business was attending the Public Television Programmer’s Association (PTPA) meeting in which I’m a member of the board and one of the planners of the daylong meeting. My session featured David Pogue, the personal tech columnist for the New York Times. If you are unfamiliar with his writing, I strongly encourage you to check out Pogue's Blog and videos. He is also the writer of several “For Dummies” books on magic, Macs, opera and classical music. He is the creator and writer of the "Missing Manuals" series and I wouldn’t doubt if you or someone you know lives by his manuals. He is the new host of a NOVA mini-series that is in production and it was great to have him as a guest to hear his thoughts on public media, social media, technology and his catchy music. I could go on about David but he was just one of the many highlights from my meetings. When the new series approaches, you can bet that my blog will be about DP.
The second meeting was PBS Showcase. Showcase provides an opportunity for PBS affiliates from around the country to come together, share best practices and get face time with PBS HQ. TV programmers, producers, PR folks, General Managers, Online folks and development people convene for a few days to get the latest news.
PBS reported that ratings were up for children’s programming and primetime. It’s the first increase the network has had in 5 years. Some of the best new kids programs last year were on PBS, so I’m not surprised that the kid's lineup saw improved ratings with the new Electric Company and Dinosaur Train launching! Nationally, the network had a 19% increase for kids programming!
I'm also not surprised that primetime went up--in Tucson, viewers loved the last season of Masterpiece films, Faces of America by Henry Louis Gates, independent docs like Food Inc and Ken Burn’s America’s National Park. The rest of the country loved those shows too.
Showcase offers producers the time to present their trailers of upcoming PBS series like Nova, Independent Lens, POV, Antiques Roadshow (Miami and DC are on their summer tour!), Masterpiece and American Experience (Billy the Kid!), to name a few. We also get introduced to new projects in the works like Circus from the team that brought us Carrier. Ken Burns is bringing us two new specials later this year. BTW, we are repeating the Baseball series in June and July in preparation for The Tenth Inning, one of Ken’s specials coming this Fall.
The state of Public Affairs programming was the big topic of the meeting (besides what’s going on in Arizona). I was particularly interested in meeting Alison Stewart, one of the new hosts of Need to Know. I had watched her before on MTV and like many of you, watched the new series with curiosity and concern. She's very smart and takes her role as a PBS host very seriously. The series is getting its legs and the online reporting is great. I read it every day and dig it. (On a personal note, Ms. Stewart has family that lives in Tucson. Next time she’s in town, I hope we get her in the studio for an interview.) Hari Sreenivasan from Newshour hosted a session on the state of public affairs. Frontline and Need to Know where at the table. Important issues were discussed mainly on how to deliver the news to the masses on every platform available and to be timely.
The PBS World channel (Channel 27.3) is being relaunched in July and the enhanced lineup and new website looks promising. I’m on the content and online committee for that channel. Look to this blog for more updates on the relaunch. I am very attached to the concept of the World channel and hope many of you have had the time to experience the content. It’s going to get more international, present more public affairs and have pop culture programs.
Now I’ll admit my favorite upcoming shows: The Cat in the Hat is coming featuring the voiceover talents of Martin Short! The newest Nature season made me weepy. Get out your handkerchiefs, folks. There's lots of lovable animals coming up in the Fall! One of the episodes is about an elephant named Echo and you will become attached to her. This elephant went through quite a bit! History Detectives is not one of my favorites but I'm excited that the new season has some local Tucson connections in a few of the episodes. History Detectives has a new way for you to participate in their show. You can now submit your own mystery on the History Detectives site! Nova Science Now with my beloved Neil DeGrasse Tyson looks super fun. POV’s season that starts this summer looks incredible. Check out POV's trailers from a few of the films coming up on the POV website!
The most important news is the latest online service that PBS and her stations can provide to all Americans. Arizona Public Media’s PlayPBS was just one of the few stations that launched a player on their site. Our results have been impressive and now more stations will be using not only PBS content but AZPM’s local productions on their newly launched video player.
Two non-meeting highlights:
As I was boarding my plane in Tucson, Amy Grant was getting off the plane!
Austin City Limits threw a party for PBS Showcase attendees in their studios. They are moving to a new Austin location which sounds amazing. Austin's local fave Grupo Fantasma performed for us! The dancefloor was hopping. They will be playing on June 22nd at the Rialto in Tucson folks. I'm going!
Stay tuned, Susie