For the first time since PBS began broadcasting the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize ceremony in 2000, the program is going to be rebroadcast on another network. TV One announced today it would telecast the 18th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this Friday at 8 PM ET.
The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts began awarding the prize in 1998. The first couple years, celebrating Richard Pryor and Jonathan Winters, the ceremony was telecast on Comedy Central. WETA/PBS have produced and broadcasted the event since 2000, when Carl Reiner was awarded the prize –which, as this year’s recipient Eddie Murphy revealed during the October ceremony, comes with no cash award. The star-studded special originally was broadcast on PBS stations nationwide last month.
Dalton Delan, WETA’s Executive VP and Chief of National Programming, tells Deadline that after the show, with Murphy’s unexpected bit of stand-up comedy nicking previous recipient Bill Cosby, “we were approached by several networks who wished to rebroadcast the program.” WETA struck a deal with TV One, Delan said, because of WETA’s relationship with that network which has included “extensive co-promotion of PBS (on TV One) to help reach viewers.”
“PBS is always interested in exposing its brand to new viewers, and always strapped for promotional funding, so this was a great opportunity, and TV One has established itself as a strong broadcast partner,” Delan told Deadline.
In the past WETA partnered with TV One on public broadcasting’s In Performance at the White House: The Gospel Tradition. That program taped last April and premiered on PBS on June 26. TV One simulcast that program, promoted the PBS broadcast through promos on its cable TV networks, radio stations and website. TV One also organized a satellite radio media tour for two of the program’s performers on Radio One stations the week of the premiere, and booked another performer on the Tom Joiner Morning Show.
WETA said there are “no specific plans to rebroadcast future Twain Prizes on TV One at this time.”
News of the rebroadcast of PBS’s high-profile awards ceremony comes at an interesting time for public broadcasting. Months earlier, Sesame Workshop announced premium cable network HBO would have exclusive rights to new episodes of Sesame Street for nine months. In that instance, after nine months on HBO, the episodes would be made available on PBS stations to economically disadvantaged children for whom the show’s creators have steadfastly maintained they were intended. Some critics of that arrangement have forecast the availability of PBS programming on other outlets could negatively impact PBS public funding.