The Public Broadcasting Service will receive equity stakes in JuniorNet Corp., a for-profit children’s web site, in exchange for promotion and distribution services, the Wall Street Journal reported on June 27.
Member stations have also agreed to air a new half-hour children’s program starting early next year that is designed, in part, to boost JuniorNet.
The deal, which had yet to be formally announced, marked the first time that public television stations will receive stock in exchange for beneficial air time.
The stations should benefit from JuniorNet’s planned initial public offering, and will also be paid a percentage of the revenue they generate for the website.
The planned TV program has not been named yet, but will be aimed at teaching children about the Internet. The show will also feature JuniorNet, however: the pilot involves a story about a computer virus invading JuniorNet’s online system.
In addition to the 20 stations in the network, PBS member groups in 15 to 20 other markets will conduct tests this fall and could sign on with JuniorNet, Rod Bates told the Journal. Bates is general manager of Nebraska Educational Telecommunications in Lincoln.
Since 1994 when Congress nearly pulled the plug on its federal funding, PBS has sought deals in the private sector. The network has demanded a cut of the merchandising revenues generated by its children’s shows and has increased its efforts to sell music and videotapes.