Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS discusses Can PBS Survive in a YouTube World?.
What is public television's role in a YouTube world? How are Big Bird and Bill Moyers surviving in a crowded, yet increasingly consolidated, media landscape? Kerger is working to position public television as a vital resource nationwide. What are the challenges in running a public service media organization against sweeping change in both the media and philanthropic world, and periodic threats from Capitol Hill?- The Commonwealth Club of California
Paula Kerger is president and chief executive officer of PBS, the nation’s largest non-commercial media organization with more than 350 member stations throughout the country.
Ms. Kerger joined PBS as its sixth president and chief executive in March 2006. Since her arrival, Ms. Kerger has made particularly strong commitments to the arts, news and public affairs, high-quality content for education, diversity, and the use of new technology to bring public media into the lives of all Americans.
Under Ms. Kerger’s leadership, PBS has been growing its audiences across genres, and platforms. In the course of a year, nearly ninety percent of all television households in America watch PBS, and over eighty percent of all children watch PBS. Six of the top ten children’s television shows are on PBS. And online, viewers stream 180 million videos per month on PBS platforms.
Among her accomplishments are the pop-culture phenomenon “Downton Abbey,” which is the most-watched MASTERPIECE program in the series’ history; Ken Burns’s 2012 documentary, “The Dust Bowl”; the debut of such acclaimed children’s programs as “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That,” “Dinosaur Train,” “Curious George” (the number one show for children ages 2-5 since 2006), “Word World,” “Super Why!,” “Martha Speaks,” and “Sid the Science Kid”; new primetime science and arts series; the new PBS ARTS website and ARTS Festival; and comprehensive online sites for parents and caregivers. PBS has also developed the new PBS LearningMedia, which provides educators with strategies, tools, and professional development resources needed to fully utilize digital learning in the classroom.
For the 2011-2012 season, PBS programs were honored with 12 Primetime Emmy Awards, 11 Daytime Emmy Awards, and nine News & Documentary Emmy Awards. PBS was also honored with seven George Foster Peabody Awards; four Golden Globe nominations; one Television Critics Association Award; seven IDA Documentary Award nominations; 15 Writers Guild of America nominations; three Webby Awards; and eight Parents’ Choice awards.
During Ms. Kerger’s tenure, PBS has developed critically praised online video portals for general audiences (video.pbs.org) and children (pbskids.org/video and pbskids.org/go/video) as well as innovative digital partnerships with such companies as iTunes, YouTube, Microsoft’s Xbox, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Comcast’s On Demand service ensure that PBS programming is accessible across multiple platforms and, increasingly, to a global audience.
In addition to leading PBS, Ms. Kerger is president of the PBS Foundation, an independent organization that raises private sector funding for PBS, and has become a significant source of revenue for new projects at PBS. Ms. Kerger is regularly included in the Hollywood Reporter’s “Women in Entertainment Power 100,” an annual survey of the nation’s top women executives in media. In 2005, she was named to the Women’s Forum, an organization of 300 leading women in New York’s arts and business scenes. In 2008, Ms. Kerger received the Woman of Achievement Award from Women in Development, New York. And in 2012, she was honored by Promax/BDA , B&C and Multichannel News with their 2012 Brand Builder Award.
Prior to joining PBS, Ms. Kerger served for more than a decade at Educational Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), the parent company of Thirteen/WNET and WLIW21 New York, where her ultimate position was executive vice president and chief operating officer. Her tenure boasts many achievements, including WNET’s completion in 1997 of the largest successful endowment campaign ever undertaken by a public television station.
Ms. Kerger received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Baltimore, where she serves on the Merrick School of Business Dean’s Advisory Council. In addition, she is a director of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and a member of the board of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
Ms. Kerger and her husband Joseph Kerger live in Washington, D.C.