PBS Overview


Today's PBS - America's Largest Classroom, the Nation's Largest Stage
and a Trusted Window to the World

Every day, PBS and more than 350 member stations fulfill our essential mission to the American public, providing trusted programming that is uniquely different from commercial broadcasting, treating its audience as citizens, not simply consumers. In fact, PBS has been rated as the most trustworthy institution among nationally known organizations for 12 consecutive years.

PBS invites everyone to explore new ideas and broaden personal horizons -- with content that expands the minds of children, programs that ensure the worlds of music, theater, dance and art remain available to all Americans, documentaries that open up new worlds, and non-commercialized news programs that provide citizens with multiple perspectives on world events and cultures.

PBS is a private, nonprofit corporation, founded in 1969, whose members are America’s public TV stations -- noncommercial, educational licensees that operate 351 PBS member stations and serve all 50 states, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa. Of the 161 licensees, 84 are community organizations, 52 are colleges/universities, 20 are state authorities and five are local educational or municipal authorities. 

Strong On-Air Reach Across America

  • Over the course of a year, 86% of all U.S. television households - and 211 million people - watch PBS. The demographic breakdown of PBS' full-day audience reflects the overall U.S. population with respect to race/ethnicity, education and income. (Nielsen NPower, 9/23/2013-9/21/2014)
  • In a typical month, nearly 100 million people watch their local PBS stations. (Nielsen NPower, October 2014)
  • PBS averaged a 1.50 primetime rating during the 2013-'14 season, an increase of 5% over the previous season. (Nielsen NPower, 9/24/2012-9/22/2013 vs 9/23/2013-9/21/2014)
  • PBS' primetime audience is significantly larger than many commercial channels, including Bravo (PBS’ audience is 127% larger), A&E (123%), TLC (116%),  HBO (105%), HGTV (63%) and Discovery Channel (55%). In addition, PBS' primetime rating for news and public affairs programming is 127% higher than CNN’s primetime audience. (Nielsen NPower, 9/22/2014-3/29/2015)
  • 77% of all kids age two to eight watched PBS during the 2013-'14 season. (Nielsen NPower, 9/23/2013-9/21/2014)
  • PBS had six of the top 10 programs among mothers of young children in March 2015. (Nielsen NPower, 1/2015)

Innovation and Growth on Digital Platforms 

  • Americans watched 477 million videos across all of PBS' web and mobile platforms in March 2015; over four-fifths (84%) of these streams were delivered on a mobile platform. (Google Analytics, 3/2015)
  • Combined, PBS had more than 42 million unique visitors to its sites in March. (Google Analytics, 3/2015)
  • In March, streaming on PBSKIDS.org accounted for one-third (33%) of all time spent watching kids videos online. Additionally, more minutes were spent viewing video on PBSKIDS.org than on any other site in the kids category. (comScore Video Metrix, 3/2015)
  • In total, PBS' general audience and kids mobile apps have been downloaded 21.2 million times. (AppFigures)
  • Nearly 271 million videos were streamed on the PBS KIDS Video for iPhone/iPad app in March. (Google Analytics, 3/2015)
  • PBS has 15 million combined followers across 10 different social networks, including Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube. (4/1/2015)

Helping to Close the Achievement Gap

  • PBS is the No. 1 source of media content for preschool teachers. (Grunwald Study, 2009 Media and Technology Use and Trends Among K-12 & Pre-K Teachers)
  • PBS LearningMedia, a partnership of PBS and WGBH Educational Foundation, is a free media-on-demand service offering educators access to the best of public media and delivers research-based, classroom-ready digital learning experiences to engage students in exploring curriculum concepts that align with National and Common Core State Standards.
    • Teachers have access to more than 100,000 curriculum-aligned digital resources from over 205 trusted media partners bringing learning to life for students.
    • Over 1.6 million educators have registered access to PBS LearningMedia.
  • PBS offers more than 50 interactive whiteboard games for educators to use in the classroom.
  • PBS Parents (pbsparents.org) provides the tools and resources for parents to be their children’s best first teacher.

Highly Valued by the American Public

PBS annually commissions research to measure its performance and value as judged by its most important stakeholder — the American public. With local independent stations rooted in communities across the country, public media is unrivalled in its commitment to optimize the power and potential of media to strengthen our democracy, build stronger communities and improve lives.

Recent national studies confirm that PBS is (visit this link for source and full details):

  • #1 in public trust
  • An "excellent" use of tax dollars
  • The most fair network for news and public affairs
  • The #1 educational TV/media brand, for PBS KIDS
  • The safest on-air and online destination, for PBS KIDS

Four Decades of Innovation from PBS

2011 PBS LearningMedia launches as a next generation digital education service, delivering unprecedented access to a robust, world-class library and available free to all preK-16 classrooms.
PBS initiatives support the growth of public media on digital platforms – from auto-localization of pbs.org to APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that facilitate digital distribution of content.
PBS video players launch on pbs.org, offering hundreds of full-length programs free of charge for general audiences, preschoolers and older children.
PBS is the first television broadcast system to implement file-based digital content distribution, improving efficiency and quality.
PBS.org becomes the most trafficked dot-org website in the world.
PBS becomes the first national broadcaster to distribute HD programming to member stations for broadcast.
PBS inaugurates the first all-digital TV broadcast facility in the U.S.
PBS becomes one of the first major broadcasters to launch a website. 
PBS launches Descriptive Video Service for blind and visually impaired viewers.
Public television station WTTW in Chicago, in the PBS series Soundstage, becomes one of the first stations to use stereo television.
PBS launches the first satellite interconnection system.
PBS pioneers closed captioning for hearing-impaired viewers.

April 2015

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