Cut­ting the cord: All the broad­cast sta­tions in­cluded — ex­cept for PBS

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - TECH - Talk­ing Tech

LOS AN­GE­LES – Cut­ting-the-cord al­ter­na­tives like YouTube TV and PlayS­ta­tion Vue make an at­trac­tive of­fer. Ditch cable, and save money by only sub­scrib­ing to a hand­ful of broad­cast and cable chan­nels you want, in­stead of a uni­verse of 500.

But a ques­tion many are ask­ing is, “Why is PBS miss­ing?”

The Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing Sys­tem, which was founded in 1969, is part of the same free, ad-sup­ported broad­cast net­work lineup across the en­tire United States, with CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and the CW of­fer­ing free pro­gram­ming to any­one with an over-the-air an­tenna. It’s in­cluded on ev­ery ba­sic cable lineup.

So what’s the hangup? PBS says it wants to be in­cluded with the cable al­ter­na­tives and hopes to get there by the end of the year. But PBS says it isn’t re­ally a broad­cast net­work but in­stead pri­mar­ily a syn­di­ca­tor of con­tent to in­de­pen­dent pub­lic TV sta­tions.

It buys shows like Call the Mid­wife and Victoria and pro­duces news shows like Front­line and kids’ pro­gram­ming (The Odd Squad).

What PBS doesn’t have now is com­plete livestream­ing rights to all the shows, but it hopes to change that.

“It’s a high pri­or­ity for us,” said Ira Ruben­stein, the chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer for PBS. “We hope to be there sooner rather than later.”

Cord-cut­ters can still watch PBS pro­grams on­line, but not al­ways for free.

The PBS Video app, which is avail­able for phones, tablets, and stream­ing play­ers like Roku, Ap­ple TV and Ama­zon Fire TV, of­fers most of the avail­able PBS pro­gram­ming, usu­ally the same day as broad­cast, but not al­ways. Mas­ter­piece, for in­stance, is avail­able the morn­ing af­ter the Sun­day night pre­miere, and only then for two weeks.

If you don’t catch up with it, you’ll need to pay $60 a year for a PBS Pass­port mem­ber­ship, which prom­ises a monthly $5 do­na­tion to your lo­cal PBS sta­tion and thus un­locks the com­plete li­brary for on-de­mand view­ing.

The Ama­zon Chan­nels ini­tia­tive, of­fer­ing sub­scrip­tion TV (HBO, Starz) via Ama­zon Prime, also of­fers a sep­a­rate PBS Mas­ter­piece sub­scrip­tion, for $5.99 monthly.

Ruben­stein said “99%” of PBS pro­gram­ming is avail­able within the PBS app, save for the oc­ca­sional live mu­sic per­for­mance.

But for view­ers who don’t sup­port their lo­cal sta­tion, find­ing shows just won’t be as easy as on Net­flix.

The British dra­mas and Ken Burns doc­u­men­taries are avail­able for just the first two weeks and An­tiques Road­show and Nova for four weeks be­fore send­ing view­ers to the PBS Pass­port, while news and kids’ con­tent stays up and is al­ways avail­able, Ruben­stein said.

The sep­a­rate PBS Kids app has the com­plete lineup of shows, PBS says.

PBS says more than 11.2 mil­lion PBS view­ers viewed 730 mil­lion videos on the PBS Video and PBS Kids apps in 2017.

PBS is a pri­vate, non-profit cor­po­ra­tion that serves some 350 non-com­mer­cial and ed­u­ca­tional TV sta­tions in 50 states. It op­er­ates on fed­eral fund­ing (from the Cor­po­ra­tion for Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing) and do­na­tions from view­ers.

Of cable TV al­ter­na­tives, YouTube, DirecTV Now and PlayS­ta­tion Vue of­fer all the broad­cast net­works, save PBS, for about $40 monthly. The other miss­ing play­ers in some pack­ages are Vi­a­com chan­nels, like MTV and Nick­elodeon. They are avail­able on DirecTV Now.


PBS brings the British drama se­ries “Victoria” to U.S. air­waves, via lo­cal pub­lic TV sta­tions.

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