Fans of public broadcasting rejoice—PBS announced yesterday it’s teaming up with YouTube so you can livestream all the Antique Roadshow or Masterpiece Theater you want. But while this is great for expanding PBS’s digital footprint, there is a bit of a catch.
First off, it won’t be free. The livestreaming will be via YouTube TV, the streaming giant’s live and on-demand subscription service which costs $50 a month. Also, the programming you get will depend on which PBS member stations choose to participate. At the very least you’ll get live channels for PBS and PBS KIDS, as well as video on demand and YouTube TV’s DVR service with no storage limits.
“Our goal is to reach as many Americans as possible with content that educates, inspires, and entertains. As a broadcaster that is rooted in communities, we appreciate YouTube’s commitment to local content, and we are pleased that this service provides audiences with access to programming that is produced and distributed by our member stations,” PBS Chief Digital and Marketing Officer Ira Rubenstein said in a statement.
Technically, watching PBS on television is free. (Though if you’ve ever watched a PBS show, you know how that program was “brought to you by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and contributions to your PBS stations by Viewers Like You.”) That said, viewers like us are increasingly turning to streaming services for our TV consumption—so it makes sense that PBS would want to make its content available on as many services possible, even if it’s not exactly free. While this partnership is PBS’s first livestreaming partnership, it’s not the broadcaster’s first digital service. It currently offers on-demand streaming of its own, with membership as an optional choice. You can also view PBS’s channel on-demand via Amazon Prime Video.
In any case, diversifying via partnerships is a good move considering PBS is constantly under threat of defunding by the Trump administration. In the 2020 federal budget, President Trump proposed cutting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s funding by 94 percent from $465 million to $30 million.