The Local/National COVE Pilot Program (Part 3 of 5 in a series)

fun_dip.jpgWhen I was a kid, one of my favorite candies was Willy Wonka's Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip. I have such fond memories of running across the street to the market, dropping some coin on the counter, grabbing one of those tri-fold packages of multi-flavored sugary goodness. I'd run back across the street, caution to the wind, ignoring the potential cross-traffic, singularly focused on reaching my porch to indulge in the 'Fun.' I'd tear open each pouch one at a time, releasing a tiny puff of powdery sugar, before finally taking out the glossy white candied stick.

I was an artist with Fun-Dip, dipping into one pouch after another in order to create a rainbow of flavor. Occasionally, I would pour each flavor of sugar out separately on a plate, and coat the candy stick completely. It was an interactive food that tapped into the inner Emeril of every kid.

In many ways I see similarities between Fun-Dip and the COVE-powered Local/National PBS Video Player that will be released to stations. Both are simple representatives of their greater product types that cleverly mask complex workflows necessary to achieve their true potential. Also, each requires equal amounts of creativity and restraint in order to create balanced, long-lasting and engaging experiences.

The Local/National PBS Video Player allows stations to "program" their own video portal with both local and national shows to create an experience unique to their community's needs. Among the tools at their disposal are content exclusions, look and feel customization, adding related media links and curating special collections around themes. Part of the complexity of the service is also content syndication. Stations utilizing the Local PBS Video Player can not only display their own content, but also the content from any COVE station that chooses to syndicate. The architecture for making this possible is one of the greater challenges of the player.
In order to ensure that we are delivering a product capable of achieving such lofty goals, we had to have a rock solid way to test it--enter the Local/National COVE Pilot Program. The goal of the pilot program is to work in partnership with small group of stations that represent the greater needs of the system, yielding valuable knowledge needed to roll the product out to the system.

The process for selecting the pilot program participants was extensive and complex itself. After conducting an initial product and service webinar with approximately 80 stations, we sent around an online questionnaire that was ultimately completed by 41 stations.  

Before they were reviewed, all identifying station information was stripped from the responses to allow for a "blind" selection process. A selection committee conducted a comparative analysis based on a point system that considered video strategy, community focus, innovative revenue/monetization ideas, and types of local content. This analysis narrowed the list to 20 stations; the team then reintroduced identifying station information to match against a target list of station characteristics (Station License type, Region, Market Size, Available content).

This resulted in the following 14 Pilot Stations:

Iowa Public Television          
Mountain Lake PBS            
Oregon Public Broadcasting

Among the stations participating in the pilot, there is a range of market sizes, dual and university licensees, state networks, a Program Differentiation Plan station, as well as several stations that will experiment with local underwriting. Thanks to some heavy-lifting on the part of the pilot participants we have already learned several lessons regarding resources, back-end administrative needs, workflow and implementation.

So, while there are more flavors than just grape, cherry and orange in the Local/National Pilot Program, the quintessential nature is the same as Fun-Dip--take quality individual parts, bring them together and experiment to produce an experience that is both unique and enhanced.

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