From Ray Richmond, who is contributing to Deadline Hollywood’s TCA coverage:
Speaking on Saturday morning to critics at the TCA powwow in Pasadena, PBS chief Paula Kerger said she had “extended discussions with KCET that extended over many months” last year but in the end was unsuccessful from keeping the Los Angeles station from bolting the PBS fold last October to become independent.
“We believed until the very end that we’d come to an understanding,” Kerger asserted. “No one was as surprised as us that we couldn’t. But I think they believe there’s room in Los Angeles for a different type of public station, and that’s the path that they’ve embarked on. And I really, truly hope they’re successful, because if they are it will further serve the needs of this community.”
The negotiations between KCET and the network came down to money, of course. But it wasn’t just about the $6.8 million in annual dues that KCET saves now that it need not fork over that money to PBS. A source says that the amount the station and network were apart was under $1 million before KCET made its announcement in October.
Yet Kerger said on Saturday that she isn’t worried about KCET’s action beginning a tidal wave of defections from the satcaster. “We’re a membership organization,” she said, “and I don’t see any other station (nationally) poised to go down the same path as KCET. There’s no evidence of that right now. But these are difficult economic times, so you need to be vigilant as to the possibility all the time.”