Mr. Lyons interested in taking PBS to other international markets, including Africa

Distribution

PBS (America's Public Broadcasting Service) is a late entrant to the (UK) market, largely because the public broadcaster has little extra money on hand for such projects. The push for the U.S. broadcaster to cross the Atlantic originated with a request from a wealthy rank-and-file viewer.

David Lyons, the founder of Quadra Group, asked the U.S. broadcaster to launch a U.K. channel because he was a longtime viewer of KSPS-TV, the PBS affiliate in Spokane, Wash., and admired the public broadcaster's programming.  "It's one of the leading lights of American culture," says  Lyons, a Canadian businessman living in England, who said he is a fan of "PBS News Hour."

PBS Distribution is itself a joint venture between PBS and WGBH, the Massachusetts-based PBS affiliate that produces "Frontline" and "Nova." Together, PBS and WGBH hold the rights to a big slice of the PBS archive, though the rights to some well-known PBS programs, such as "Sesame Street," are held elsewhere.

Ms. Kerger said the U.K. channel won't be limited to programs in PBS Distribution's rights library. "It's not beyond the pale that 'Sesame Street' would be included," she said.  Lyons said he is interested in taking PBS to other international markets, including Scandinavia and Africa, if the U.K. channel proves successful. Ms. Kerger agrees.

PBS's launch in Britain puts it in a market with a long tradition of public broadcasting. PBS's revenue, $571 million in fiscal 2010, is far smaller than that of its U.K. counterpart, the British Broadcasting Corp., which takes in about £3.5 billion ($5.6 billion) a year from the U.K.'s mandatory annual TV licenses, which cost households £145.50 apiece.

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