PBS Chief Paula Kerger Re-ups for 5 More Years

Paula Kerger TCA - Getty - H 2018
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PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger is staying put at the network.

Already the longest-serving head of the public broadcaster, Kerger has renewed her contract with PBS for five more years, she said Monday at the Television Critics Association's press tour. The new deal runs through 2024. 

"I believe so strongly in the purpose and power of public television," Kerger said. "I believe our work has never been more important, and I'm excited about what lies ahead."

Kerger has been with PBS since 2006. During her tenure, PBS has moved from the 14th most-watched network in the U.S. to No. 6, thanks to shows like Downton Abbey and programming events like Ken Burns' The Vietnam War.

The network head also announced a carriage deal with YouTube TV for PBS' local stations and discussed the ongoing proposals from the White House to eliminate federal funding for the public broadcaster. 

"It's more than disappointing because the energy that goes into having to make the case to put funding back in is not insignificant," said Kerger.

She noted that while federal funding makes up 15 percent of PBS' total budget, it can be up to half the funding for local stations in smaller markets: "It's really an issue about local TV access in communities where I'd argue public TV stations play an outsized role in the health and vitality of their communities."

PBS has had conversations with several live-streaming platforms, but it "started down the path fastest with YouTube," which agreed to take feeds for all local stations in their markets and not just a national feed. 

"The interest went all the way up to [YouTube CEO] Susan Wojcicki, who's a big fan of public television," said Kerger. "I want to make sure our local stations are out there — they're going to pick up all public TV stations in every community. I think it was an important first move." 

PBS will launch on YouTube TV in the fall for all local stations who choose to participate.

On the programming front, PBS announced the five-part documentary Asian Americans, led by a team of Asian-American fillmmakers, including series producer Renee Tajima-Peña; an American Masters installment on Rita Moreno, with Norman Lear and Lin-Manuel Miranda among the executive producers; and a two-part American Experience on George W. Bush as part of its series "The Presidents." 

PBS Kids is also launching a new version of Clifford the Big Red Dog in December (in association with Amazon) and the new series Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum, based on author Brad Meltzer's "Ordinary People Change the World" series of children's books.