Do PBS pledge drives still work?
My local PBS station, WNET, also knew that this was an engaging special, as they broke in at least 4 times during the 90-minute special to ask for money. And these pledge breaks lingered to the point where I switched away from them to see what else was on, only to come a few minutes after they went back to Frontline, which only got me more annoyed. I'm sure a lot of people get annoyed at these breaks; people have been making fun of them for as long as I can remember. Here's what I want to know: do those pledge breaks (or "begathons," as they used to be called) still work?
Sure, your local PBS station -- or PBS in general, if they're the ones running the pledge break, which I usually see during those endless parades of nostalgia doo-wop concerts -- gets money during these breaks. You've got to remember, the audience for PBS is still primarily people like my parents, who tune to one station and tend to leave it there until the show they're watching is over (though even my dad throws the "begathon" term around when he gets annoyed at the pledge breaks).
But whatever younger viewers PBS has or is trying to gain must be completely turned off by their station breaking their concentration to beg for money. Don't you think they'd rather just go to the station's web site and contribute the money there? I'm sure a crawl on the bottom of the screen or a one-minute break in the middle of the show would be more than enough to get dedicated PBS viewers to throw some cash their way.
The other thing I don't get is the pledge incentives each station offers. Yes, the classic tote bag is still available, I'd imagine, if you throw the station thirty bucks or something. But why do stations think that a DVD of the very show you're watching is something that will attract callers? It not only seems pointless -- I'm already watching it, maybe even recording it on my TiVo. Why would I want a DVD copy of it? -- but it makes the viewer feel like they're being cheated. WNET, for instance, was offering a DVD set of the entire "News War" series for a $250 pledge. A quick look at ShopPBS.org shows you that you can get the same DVD set for $24.95. Jeez.
You'd think if I was going to pledge that much money to the station, they'd give me something similar to what I could get from an eBay charity auction, like maybe having Charlie Rose record my outgoing voice mail message or something like that.
So what do you folks think? Are PBS begathons at all effective anymore? When was the last time you contributed money after being bombarded by 15 minutes of pleading in the middle of a show you were enjoying? Let me know in the comments.