PBS Home Video

What is PBS Home Video?
The mission of PBS Home Video is to provide the highest quality products and services to our customers and member stations while promoting the core ideals of our company: education, culture, and citizenship. We do this by extending the visibility and utilization of our programming through marketing, selling, and fulfilling home video products through mass retail with Warner Home Video and internal direct-to-consumer distribution services that include: shopPBS (our e-commerce site, which is an extension of our online service), the PBS Home Video catalog, on-air direct response sales, select PBS direct retail accounts which we service independently of Warner, and third-party catalog and special market outlets.

What’s your relationship with PBS?
We’re a self-supporting division within PBS that supports independent producers and public television stations while extending the mind print of the PBS brand directly to our viewers.

What’s your “mind print?”
It’s like how other companies talk about their “footprint,” but since PBS wants to make an impression on the mind, we call it our “mind print.”

Describe your relationship with Time Warner:
Our partner, Warner Home Video, services all non-PBS distribution outlets including mass merchants, club stores, video retailers, distributors, etc. We’re able to capitalize on WHV’s marketing and distribution strengths to promote our titles that have a broader consumer appeal.

Who is PBS Home Video?
Dan Hamby, VP PBS Home Video
Tracey Beeker, Director Licensing & Marketing
Jennifer English, Director of Retail Marketing
Jonathan Segal, Director of Retail Marketing
Cindy Haimowitz, Director of Retail Sales
Ed Bell, Senior Manager, Special Market Sales
Monday Johnson, Director of Merchandise
Royce West, Director of E-Commerce Marketing

Total number of employees:

How, when, and why did PBS Home Video come into being?
PBS Home Video was developed in 1989 and was a result of increasing consumer interest in collecting PBS programming. PBS had distributed videos to the educational market for more than 15 years prior to creating the PBS Home Video label. We still serve educators through PBS Video.

Where does the funding come from for PBS Home Video?
PBS Home Video is a self-supporting department within PBS. Net revenues generated from distribution and licensing are put back into the PBS National Programming fund and other membership services.

Driving philosophy behind PBS Home Video:
To extend the life of PBS programming beyond broadcast.

What would people be most surprised to learn about PBS Home Video?
Every purchase of a PBS Home Video or DVD product supports our on-air endeavors. We thank our customers individually and remind them that funds generated from the sale of our products goes back to securing the programs they enjoy watching and expect PBS to provide.

How many works are in your collection?
More than 500 series and individual titles.

Best known title in PBS Home Video’s collection:
Although there are several, the most well-known title that helped define PBS Home Video’s business is Ken Burns’ The Civil War. This breakthrough series really defined the documentary genre and continues to be one of our best sellers. Of course, choosing this one title is really hard as there so many to choose from, such as Eyes on the Prize and Baseball, but The Civil War stands out as our first mass market hit. Note: Eyes is now available to the educational market only.

Films and filmmakers you distribute:
Ken Burns’ The Civil War, Baseball, America, The West, Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony, and most recently Jazz; the American Experience series; films by Emmy-award winning David Grubin (FDR, LBJ, Napoleon, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln); Ric Burns’s New York: A Documentary Film, The Donner Party, and The Way West; and our PBS Kids Home Video properties (Teletubbies, Zoboomafoo, Caillou, etc.), which continue to grow.

How does a title come to be distributed by PBS Home Video?
All of the PBS Home Video programs must have aired on PBS. Our role is to act as an extension of our broadcast service and to distribute programs directly to consumers.

Are works that have shown on PBS through its national feed required to be available for distribution through PBS Home Video?

What are the terms of a typical PBS Home Video distribution contract?
Retail and direct response rights, North America, 7-10 years.

Are there specific advantages to being aired on PBS and then also distributed by PBS Home Video?
Sure. Consumers know and trust PBS to be a leading provider of poignant, high-quality, entertaining programs. Our broadcast reaches 99% of U.S. households and because of that reach, we’ve been able to build incredible equity in the PBS brand. Consumers trust our programs and services and look to the brand as a seal of value and quality.

Do you also distribute titles that may have only shown regionally on a PBS affiliate?
Occasionally, but not often.

Using its national feed, does PBS publicize videos on-air that are available through other distributors?
Not directly. If it’s a distribution service owned and managed by a public television station, yes. Otherwise, no.

How do teachers find out about the titles you handle?
In addition to our Home Video business, PBS markets and distributes products and services to the education (AV) market under the PBS Video brand. This business fulfills our mission to promote education and be a solid resource for educators.

Do you develop study guides for your titles?
Yes, we do.

What’s been the biggest change at PBS Home Video in recent years?
Focusing on youth. From an expanding PBS kid’s line of ’tween and preschool programs to young adult programming, PBS is bringing some compelling new series to television and home video. A few upcoming programs include Frontline’s Merchants of Cool, which looks at today’s teens and the impact they have on the U.S. economy; American High, a series by independent producer R.J. Cutler that originally aired on Fox and has subsequently been reworked and formatted for PBS; David Zeiger’s Senior Year, a compelling docudrama that follows a group of teens throughout their senior high school year; and many new children’s series, including Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat, an animated Anne of Green Gables series, and Cyberchase, to name a few. Also, our launch of DVD titles to support our business by mining our catalog and having day-and-date VHS and DVD releases has been a big change.

What’s the most important issue facing PBS Home Video today?
Pricing. We know through our internal distribution services what a PBS consumer is willing to pay for our products but have a hard time maintaining a premium price point and securing placement at retail. We’re working with Warner Home Video on developing a key retail program that is flexible and supports retail needs while being able to maintain our position in the marketplace.

Where will PBS Home Video be 10 years from now?
PBS Home Video will continue to support programming endeavors of PBS and through cutting-edge technology, provide consumers the same high-quality products in formats as dictated by the marketplace. We have a division at PBS dedicated to testing various new technologies, and we will continue to support their efforts.

Other domestic or foreign distributors you admire and why:
Winstar: They’re a marketing-savvy company that uses their talents to promote their products to the trade and consumers effectively. We’d add Acorn Home Video to this list as well.

What’s the best film you’ve seen lately?
There are so many. Jazz, naturally. Also, Sound & Fury. Both received well-deserved Oscar nominations. Everyone here really enjoyed The Natural History of the Chicken. The last two films by David Grubin, Napoleon and Abraham and Mary Lincoln, were also great.

If you could only give independent filmmakers one bit of advice it would be to . . .
Wow, so many things come to mind. But probably the most important piece of advice would be to deliver a compelling story. Also, it helps to have more than one or two photos to work when developing packaging, sales materials, catalogs, etc.

Upcoming releases to watch for:
Scottsboro, produced by Barak Goodman and aired on The American Experience, which examines one of the most significant legal fights of the 20th century. Samuel Leibowitz, one of the country’s most prominent defense attorneys, was hired to defend nine falsely accused African-American teenagers on trial in Alabama for rape. Also Natural History of the Chicken, produced by Mark Lewis and recently screened at Sundance, which looks at chickens and the people who love them.

Famous last words:
Excite, Enrich, and Educate (but keep it simple).

About :

Lissa Gibbs was a contributing editor to The Independent and former Film Arts Foundation Fest director.