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PBS Launches Indies Initiative; Will it Stick?

PBS Launches Indies Initiative; Will it Stick?

After a several-month, multi-city listening tour, PBS, its New York affiliate, WNET, and indie documentary leaders POV and ITVS have come to an agreement, and hashed out a multi-point plan to ensure that the two documentary series, “POV” and the ITVS-produced “Independent Lens” “reach the widest possible audience,” according to a press release.

Kartemquin Films’ Gordon Quinn, who has been a spokesperson for the Indie Caucus, an indie-documentary advocacy group, said he was “encouraged” by the announcement. “One of our key concerns was to see them all working together to come up with innovative and effective ways to build the audience and impact of the independent documentary series they feature,” he said. “As these new PBS initiatives roll out we plan to be supportive and stay engaged as the details become clearer.”

One of the major outcomes of the negotiations was that Independent Lens and POV will retain their 10pm broadcast slot on most PBS stations, including WNET.

Other initiatives as part of what PBS is calling their “new programming strategy” around indies include:

– Programming “events” tied to independent films, such as thematically-related programming to optimize audience flow throughout the night.

– The launch of an outreach effort across social media channels to connect with independent film fans, including the relaunch of its independent film website, pbs.org/indiefilms.

– PBS and its distribution arm, PBS Distribution, will support several theatrical releases of independent films (including Stanley Nelson’s “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” this fall). 

– 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. 
– PBS LearningMedia, a free media on-demand service from PBS and WGBH, will 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.

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