KCETLink Media Group (KCET) and PBS SoCal (KOCE), the flagship PBS outlet for Southern California, have agreed to merge the companies. The name of the new organization will be announced with the closing of the merger, which is expected to be completed in the first half of 2018. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other unspecified but “customary” closing conditions, according to the announcement.

The union unites outlets with a reach of 18 million people in Southern California and will create opportunities for new original programs for multiple channels and platforms.

KCET was the PBS flagship West Coast station for forty years, but went independent in 2011 when it failed to reach a new affiliate agreement with PBS. The disputes that caused the separation centered on fee reductions and greater programming flexibility. In 2012, KCET merged with Link Media, an independent non-profit media company that operated the Link TV national satellite network and online international news portal, LinkNews to create KCETLink Media Group.

In its return to PBS, KCET board of directors chairman Dick Cook will serve as board chair, and PBS SoCal president and CEO Andrew Russell will be president and CEO of the new entity, which will be governed by a 32-person board of trustees composed of the 14 members from each of the boards of KCETLink and PBS SoCal, as well as four new board appointees.

“Fifty years ago, a surge of innovation and inspiration created public television as we know it today,” said KCETLink board chair Dick Cook and Jim McCluney, chairman of the PBS SoCal board of trustees, in a joint statement.  “In this dynamic time for media, this is exactly the right moment to marry the complementary core strengths of each of our organizations. Our new company combines PBS SoCal’s beloved quality programming and community engagement excellence with KCETLink’s passion for creating smart, original content that captures the spirit of the region. We are very excited to advance content creation in public media and continue to successfully implement innovative technologies to reach new and diverse audiences.”   

“The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is pleased that our longstanding goal and efforts to encourage the merger of public television stations KCET and KOCE will be realized,” said Pat Harrison, CPB President and CEO. “As a result, citizens in Greater Los Angeles, and across Southern California, will benefit from the combined strengths and capacities of these two stations—especially the increased ability to produce content for diverse local audiences as well as national audiences.” 

The new organization will continue to operate from KCET’s and PBS SoCal’s existing Southern California locations in Burbank, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles. There will be no immediate changes to broadcast operations or program schedules on any of the stations’ channels during the merger transition period.  

KCETLink Media Group is a viewer-supported 501(c)(3) organization distributed nationally on Link TV via satellite on DIRECTV channel 375, DISH Network channel 9410, and on KCET in Southern and Central California via broadcast and cable, as well as through digital delivery systems including Apple TV, Amazon and Roku.

PBS SoCal KOCE programs including Masterpiece, Nova, PBS NewsHour, Frontline, Independent Lens, and a broad library of documentary films, including works from Ken Burns. It also includes PBS Kids programming, including Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Curious George. Programs are accessible through four broadcast channels and available for streaming at pbssocal.org, on the PBS mobile apps, and via connected TV services Android TV, Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.