Next Saturday, New York public-broadcasting stations WNET and WLIW will host a one-day pledge drive where contributors can get the chance to attend the Police’s final show on their reunion tour, which will take place in August at Madison Square Garden. (A pair of tickets will come with a $150 pledge; a $5,000 pledge will snag a VIP package that includes dinner, a party, and attendance at a soundcheck.) The goal, according to Educational Broadcasting Corporation CEO Neal Shapiro, is to “get in touch with the boomer generation,” the 44-62-year-olds who are just a hair younger than PBS’ current core audience and who clearly don’t have enough music-related media directed at them right now. You’d think that the long-term growth of the channel would perhaps inspire them to look toward the generation after the boomers as well, but given that WNET has mysteriously decided to not air this season of Austin City Limits, a show that actually features musicians who aren’t making the reunion-tour victory lap from time to time, the likelihood of the execs not wanting to rock the gray-haired boat is high.
More than 40 percent of New York’s public television viewers are older than 65, according to Nielsen Media Research, so younger, in this context, means more 50-year-old viewers.
But the Police’s fans seem to span the ages, and WNET and WLIW executives say they hope to bring in viewers as young as 35 from the coming fund-raiser.
“We wanted to embrace that kind of music and say there is a home for it here, and to add some veneer and context,” said Mr. Shapiro, formerly president of NBC News, explaining that for the last few years public television has been searching for ways to incorporate classic rock — the music of the generation that came of age in the ’60s — into its programming and fund-raising. During a past pledge drive, for example, a $150 donation garnered a DVD and CD of the Clash, and in 2005 WNET co-produced the Martin Scorsese documentary “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan,” which had its United States broadcast premiere on the station.
And lest you think the Police show will be the final nail in PBS’
coffin plan to bring in younger viewers:
For public television, the result of the discussions with the Police is a soon-to-be-unveiled marketing plan named Public Television Rocks, the centerpiece of which is the partnership with the group. Other events focused on classic rock and aimed at keeping the 50-year-olds tuning in are being planned, Mr. Shapiro said.
“This is going to break the dam and get other projects rolling,” he said. “If one of the advantages is that it can deepen the audience and bring in younger viewers, that’s great.”
“Public Television Rocks”? You know, I would pledge $150 if I could get the chance to give a slightly more creative name to this initiative. I’m just saying.