PBS Launches Ad-Supported Classic TV Channel on Roku | Exclusive

PBS Retro will feature series from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, including “Thomas & Friends” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”

Photo courtesy of PBS Distribution

PBS Distribution is expanding its free, ad-supported streaming (FAST) offerings with PBS Retro.

The channel, which is available on Roku, offers 24/7 access to the public media network’s classic series from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, including “Kratts’ Creatures,” “Thomas & Friends,” “Zoboomafoo,” “Reading Rainbow” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

“The FAST marketplace has matured quickly with hundreds of channels for audiences to choose from. We partner with FAST channel platforms to focus on gaps in programming and create channels to meet the needs of viewers,” PBS Distribution president Andrea Downing told TheWrap. “As a result, we identified an interest in connecting audiences with the content they grew up watching – which led to the creation of the PBS Retro channel.”

PBS Distribution, a joint venture between PBS and GBH Boston, operates six subscription streaming channels — including PBS Masterpiece, PBS KIDS, PBS Living, PBS Documentaries and PBS America, as well as numerous FAST channels in the U.S. and U.K.

The company reaches viewers through transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) licensing, advertising-based video on demand (AVOD), DVD and Blu-ray, theatrical releasing, educational platforms, non-theatrical and inflight sales. It also serves broadcasters and producers providing program sales and co-production financing.

In addition to PBS Retro, the company’s FAST channels include PBS Food, PBS Antiques Road Show, Julia Child, Antiques Road Trip and PBS Nature.

“We are still in the early days of experimentation, with the goal of understanding the potential FAST Channels have for increased revenue and awareness. As viewers watch more content on digital platforms, PBS content must be available in new places to meet our mission: offering access to PBS content to as many Americans as possible,” Downing added. “We are collaborating with our partners to ensure the success of these channels and will continue to consider additional opportunities.”


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