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The U.S. Public Television Online Opportunity

New research from The Media Audit reveals that audiences of U.S. Public Television station web sites are continuing to grow, paving the way for stations to drive more memberships and increase corporate support, both an integral part of a public TV station's current funding model.

Among the top five U.S. Public TV station web sites are KQED-TV which is measured in San Francisco as well as San Jose (KQED.org), KOPB-TV in Portland (Opb.org), WGBH-TV in Boston (wgbh.org) and KPBS-TV in San Diego (Kpbs.org).

According to The Media Audit report, all five TV station websites increased the number of past 30 day visitors, compared to a year ago. In San Jose, Kqed.org reaches 14.5 percent of adults 18+, up from 14.2 percent a year ago. Obp.org in Portland reaches 13.8 percent (up from 12.6 percent), Kqed.org in San Francisco reaches 12.8 percent (up from 10.7 percent), Wgbh.org in Boston reaches 10.4 percent (up from 10.3 percent) and Kpbs.org in San Diego reaches 10.2 percent (up from 9.4 percent).

The Media Audit currently measures 142 Public TV stations and 93 Public TV web sites across 84 U.S. markets. The Media Audit specifically measures visitors to web sites including past month, past week, and yesterday.

Additionally, Public TV web sites remain competitive in terms of reach versus other local media web sites. In San Francisco, Kqed.org is the fourth highest rated local media web site out of more than 50 measured local newspaper, TV and radio web sites measured by The Media Audit. In Portland, Opb.org is the third highest local media web site measured out of more than 40 local media web sites measured.

According to Integrated Media Association (iMa), an organization representing the interests of Public Broadcasters, the growing new media landscape has implications beyond traditional funding models that may include subscription-based services.

I believe that the significance of the Public TV sponsorship opportunity is worthy of further assessment by marketers. The percentage of the overall market reached may be less significant than the segment profile of the people that regularly view the broadcast programing and visit the web sites.

These affluent consumers are drawn to the Public TV model by the consistent quality of the content, and the apparent lack of traditional advertising. Also, the KQED-TV website is a good example of thoughtful design, and the on-demand access to audio and video podcasts demonstrates their intelligent and creative application of digital media formats.

Furthermore, their Quest feature -- an interactive exploration of the San Andreas Fault Trail -- is a truly amazing use of multimedia online, including high-definition video. Corporate sponsors of this website will greatly benefit from a rare phenomenon -- consumers actually welcome their presence.

The ongoing corporate support is essential to sustaining the consumer experience. But, the commercial exposure is very clever and much less invasive than traditional TV advertising. As more Americans choose to reduce their viewing of the four commercial television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox), the role of public television sponsorship will likely evolve.

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