Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
A virtual wall that has prevented Canadians from streaming PBS shows and documentaries has been torn down.
Canadian members of Prairie Public, the Fargo-based non-profit PBS affiliate whose channel is part of cable packages across Manitoba, were finally be able to view shows online on Tuesday via the video-on-demand service at pbs.org.
It will be a few months before Canadians get full access to content on the PBS app, but that is expected to happen before the end of 2020, Troy Davis, Prairie Public’s director of development, said Tuesday.
Previously, Canadian Prairie Public members would be geo-blocked from viewing the content on pbs.org or on the PBS app because of copyright difficulties.
Prairie Public has about 4,000 members from Manitoba — more than a quarter of its 15,000 total membership — and the PBS affiliate hopes opening the network’s online doors to Canadians will encourage more people to join up and end the complaints from Canadian members, Davis said.
"This is a big deal for us. We have a number of members up in Winnipeg and this is just another added benefit for our members," Davis said. "We get a lot of phone calls from our Canadian side. It’s a great way to acquire new members."
Prairie Public is part of a consortium of PBS affiliates based in border cities that broadcast the network’s programming to Canadian cities via cable services. Tuesday’s announcement opens the online doors to all Canadian members of PBS affiliates.
The deal includes more than 1,000 hours of drama and documentary content, including documentary series such as PBS Newshour, Frontline and Nova as well as entertainment series such as Antiques Roadshow, Austin City Limits and Poldark, PBS’s most popular streamed show in the U.S.
All the films by popular documentarian Ken Burns, including The Civil War, Baseball and his most recent effort, 2019’s Country Music, are also available.
Contract rights will prevent some shows being available to Canadian members, he says.
Like many streaming services, PBS’s video-on-demand service grew in popularity as COVID-19 forced people to stay at home, Davis says.
"It resonated very heavily in the U.S. side during this pandemic. A lot of people signed up to access previous material, especially in early March and April, we had about 500 members sign up," Davis said.
The cost for the video-on-demand access is through tax-deductible donations, C$5 per week or C$60 annually at prairiepublic.org.
Arts and Life Editor
Alan Small was named the editor of the Free Press Arts and Life section in January 2013 after almost 15 years at the paper in a variety of editing roles.
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