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Freshly Indie KCET Ramps Up Local Programing With $50M Deal (Updated)

Eyetronics Media will fund new shows about Southern California for the former PBS channel

KCET, the former PBS station serving Southern and Central California, has struck a $50 million programming deal with Eyetronics Media and Studios. Under the partnership, Eyetronics will provide up funding for new local programs to start production in the fall.

Ever since KCET ended its 40-year relationship with PBS last October, there was some question as to how it would fill its programming slate without hallmark shows like "Sesame Street" and "Charlie Rose."

This deal erases many of those doubts about funding.

Also read: After 40 Years, KCET Cuts Loose From PBS

In announcing the deal on Tuesday, Eyetronics CEO Dominique Bigle praised KCET’s vision for being an independent public broadcaster, and its tradition as a producer of quality content.

"I'm thrilled that somebody sees the value of public television," said Al Tompkins, senior faculty member for the Poynter Institute’s broadcasting and online group, who added that it's important to make sure the station remains independent.

Al Jerome, KCET's President and CEO, told TheWrap that KCET will indeed retain complete editorial control over the initial group of non-fiction series. Shows will explore Southern California topics such as the entertainment community, art community, local history and multiculturalism.

Bigle also sees a potential international audience for the shows, particularly in Western Europe.

"We agreed to this partnership that allows KCET to produce the types of programs that really will resonate with our local community, which is something we have to do and want to do," Jerome said. "[Bigle] will fund those programs and distribute them nationally and internationally."

Bigle, a former Disney executive, started Eyetronics 10 years ago. The company is best known for its 3-D scanning and modeling, but Bigle's experience in international distribution was a major factor in the deal.

Adding to the new international flavor of the channel, Jerome said KCET would ask Bigle to "acquire certain programs from international distributors" to serve the multicultural community of Los Angeles.

In addition to its experience in international distribution, Eyetronics brings new materials, like the "Classic Cool Library,” which comprises thousands of classic titles, rare footage, newsreels, cartoons, serials, documentaries, TV movies and series.

KCET's new partner should also help in its new social media efforts. After lagging behind on the social media front, KCET has been trying to catch up by bringing more poeple into its social media unit and emphasizing digital platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

"A lot of these programs will really be out and about in L.A. and Southern California," Jerome said. "You’ve got to let people know about this instantaneously."