Public television has a certain feel to it...a sense that the programs are not subject to ratings systems that reward the most mundane and inane.
A huge audience for reality programming? There are those who would much prefer a re-run of Masterpiece Theater, thank you very much, and that may not be an enormous audience, but it exists and must be served.
Public television stations hold fund-raisers to get the money needed to produce programs that appeal to a more literate demographic. Want to see a dramatic performance of a Charles Dickens tale? The suits at the likes of CBS or NBC wouldn't know Dickens from a hole in the ground. That's what public television is for.
Advertisers are looking for the biggest bang for the buck, and they want to know that enough people are watching P.O.V. or Frontline to make it worth their investment. Public television will now be subject to Nielsen ratings.
The number of eyes glued to Nova will be counted, but where those eyeballs reside will be just as important. Companies pushing higher-cost goods won't much care if their PBS ads don't reach the masses, as long as the smaller demographic they reach is the one with money.
A company can sponsor PBS programs for short time spans, as small as one week, and for PBS, that could mean raking in big bucks when Ken Burns has a new documentary available for viewing. There would be weeks when sponsors wouldn't be willing to fork over major cash, especially during pledge week when programs are interrupted non-stop and viewers flee.
Advertisers will soon know how large an audience they can reach. PBS will discover how many viewers they attract.
And if the two don't mesh well, expect those pledge weeks to drag out for months.