PBS will begin offering a new channel filled exclusively with children's programs later this year, the company announced today.
The 24/7 broadcast could provide additional educational content to the millions of households where kids lack Internet access. The continuous stream of kids' shows will also be available to digital users tapping into PBS online or via a smart device.
"Television continues to be the most widely used platform for children’s educational content, especially among low-income families,” said PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger in a statement. “The new PBS KIDS 24/7 channel and live stream offered by local member stations ensure that educational media is available to all families, all the time and via a platform that works for them."
Even though popular PBS shows for kids like "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" and "Dinosaur Train" are available at any time online or with PBS KIDS' app, those services don't reach many low-income or minority families.
About five million households with school-age children didn't have Internet access in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. (The target age for PBS' children shows is 2 to 8.) The Census Bureau found in 2013 that 66 percent of blacks and 70 percent of Hispanics have a high-speed Internet connection compared with 81 percent of whites and 89 percent of Asians.
When the new channel launches, kids will be able to watch programs designed for them after school and during prime time — times of day when many children wind up in front of a television. Currently, PBS requires its member stations to provide seven hours of children's content per day, but much of it is concentrated in a morning block.
There will always be variety between the primary PBS channel and the children's station as they will not simultaneously broadcast the same show, PBS said.
It's unclear exactly how many homes will receive the new channel, though. Each of PBS' 350 member stations will decide whether to pick up the channel for its local viewers. A PBS spokeswoman declined to specify the target number of viewers for its new service.
"We hope to reach as many people as possible," Maria Vera said.
The announcement comes after the production company that makes "Sesame Street" brought new episodes of the venerable children's show to HBO. For decades, PBS has broadcast "Sesame Street" and continues to do so, but it can only air the new episodes nine months after they debut on HBO.
Twice before PBS has toyed with an all-children's channel, according to CNN. There was a channel with limited distribution in the early 2000s and later, Sprout, a partnership with Comcast. PBS ceased to be involved with Sprout in 2013, CNN said.
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