One of the distinctives over the years for the Public Broadcasting System has been uninterrupted programming - the idea that you can watch an entire episode of Sesame Street without having to see commercials pop up every 15 minutes. This is coming to an end. Coming soon, PBS shows will contain commercial blocks in line with your average television station. Removing yet another reason to separate public broadcasting from the general herd of television.
The switch is intended to combat the problem of viewers “fleeing” to other stations during the network’s blocks of commercials between programs, which can last up to eight minutes. Under the new model, PBS will adopt a “hot switch,” with no break between programs. John F. Wilson, PBS’s chief programmer, told the Times that viewers will never be more than 100 seconds from actual content.
The change will present obstacles to writers accustom to producing content watched in uninterrupted blocks, the kind of viewing many say is vital for in-depth documentary work like Frontline and dramas like Masterpiece Theatre. PBS’s Wilson said that some programs may be spared from commercial breaks, but that many producers will be forced to adapt.