Allen Media Group and program distributor PBS have inked a deal that will allow the free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) service Local Now to distribute live feeds of PBS member stations from across the country.
The deal will allow a streamer to select a live feed of their PBS member station from within the Local Now app. Access to the national PBS Kids stream will also be made available. PBS said member stations in more than 300 markets are participating in offering streaming access to their live channel.
"This is a historic agreement – we are thrilled that Local Now is the first non-PBS owned and operated streaming platform to offer PBS’s award-winning programming from stations serving more than 300 U.S. cities and markets," Byron Allen, the founder of Allen Media Group, said in a statement. "Viewers of all ages know and love PBS and soon they will be able to stream this amazing content for free, anytime on our free-streaming service Local Now."
"This exciting partnership helps us continue to meet viewers everywhere they are with the quality content they expect from PBS," Ira Rubenstein, the chief digital and marketing officer, said on Tuesday. "By providing an accessible platform through Local Now, PBS stations will be empowered to expand their digital footprint and engage new audiences with locally-produced and distributed programming. It’s all part of supporting and boosting the presence of our PBS stations in the communities we serve"
The rollout of the live PBS feeds will take some time, with Allen Media Group saying the full launch should be completed by next year. The agreement builds on a partnership Allen Media Group and PBS forged earlier this year that saw certain PBS-operated FAST channels land on Local Now. Those channels include PBS Digital Studios, which is also offered on other FAST services, including Comcast's Xumo Play, Facebook Watch and YouTube.
Over the last few years, PBS has developed digital strategies to help its member stations reach viewers across a wide variety of platforms beyond traditional cable, satellite and over-the-air platforms. Executives at PBS have worked with content providers to gain digital distribution rights to their programs, and helped member stations obtain equipment to get their local stations online.
Those strategies have helped bring PBS programming and its member stations in front of more streaming TV viewers: In 2019, the program distributor announced it had signed an agreement with Google's YouTube TV to bring more than 300 PBS member stations to the platform. The agreement allowed PBS member stations to opt-in to carriage on YouTube TV, with PBS helping to facilitate that onboarding. One year later, PBS began offering live feeds of member stations through its own free streaming app; last year, DirecTV Stream added PBS member channels to its service.
The PBS deal with Allen Media Group is also a significant show of support for Local Now, a FAST service that the company launched last year. The service has mostly collated local news feeds from Allen Media's own broadcast stations as well as those of the E. W. Scripps Company, Hearst Television, Meredith Broadcasting, Cox Media Group and others. Over the last several months, the content on Local Now has expanded to include general entertainment and movie streams from familiar FAST brands, including Funny or Die, Fail Army and Cinedigm.