Program Challenge Fund

The Program Challenge Fund was created to support high-profile, primetime, limited series for the national public television schedule. The Program Challenge Fund is jointly administered by CPB and PBS, which make funding decisions based on mutually established programming goals and objectives.

CPB and PBS have refined the purpose of the Program Challenge Fund in an effort to bring additional impact to the National Program Service schedule. The Program Challenge Fund funds high-visibility, high-impact, limited series that offer a definitive take on a subject or break new ground in popular, public service media. CPB and PBS expect a successful Program Challenge Fund program to be the highlight of a given season's schedule, have the potential to generate publicity, and attract new audiences to PBS broadcast and online content.

Furthermore, to address industry-wide goals for development of digital content, CPB and PBS dedicate Program Challenge Fund dollars to high-definition programs only, and recipients will be expected to deliver all digital content with the underlying rights.

The Program Challenge Fund is a competitive process, even for the most seasoned producers. Submissions for 60-minute and/or 90-minute shows are considered far less competitive than limited series. Only those projects deemed to meet the Program Challenge Fund priorities by CPB and PBS programming teams will be among the projects short-listed for further consideration, a decision that does not guarantee a Program Challenge Fund investment.

The Program Challenge Fund does not provide support for the following:

  • Children's programming;
  • Fitness, travel or how-to programs;
  • Finishing expenses.

Required Submission Elements

Two copies of the completed submission packages, one to be sent to CPB and one to be sent to PBS. Each should be accompanied by the submission paperwork unique to each organization.

Program Challenge Fund Submission
2100 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202
PBS Submission Release Form (PDF File)

Program Challenge Fund Submission
Television and Digital Video Content
401 Ninth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
CPB Submission Release Form

Recommended Submission Elements

  1. Overview summarizing the subject and story of the program, length, and funding request;
  2. Treatment communicating the program's story structure, theme, style, format, voice and point of view, and episodic descriptions;
  3. Description of all digital content (HDTV, DTO, streaming, VOD, interactive elements) and plan to clear all underlying rights;
  4. Web, mobile and social media content production plan (see details below);
  5. Schedule detailing the plan of work and milestones of all phases of production;
  6. Detailed budget with line items identifying each production cost (e.g., staff salaries, talent, pre- and post-production expenses, Web/mobile/social media content, outreach, etc.), and any in-kind support or other revenue raised to-date;
  7. Business plan detailing additional funding resources and funding plans to complete the project; and
  8. Key personnel and their bios, including experts and/or advisors.

Web, Mobile and Social Media Details

Producers are expected to deliver content to spec for publishing within existing PBS tools for Web, mobile and social media. Web sites will be published within a standard, multi-page template supporting streaming video, TV schedules, text, images and downloadable assets (such as educational objects). PBS's existing mobile apps support streaming for full episodes, promos and clips while promoting broadcast times. Audience engagement should take place on PBS's existing social media presences (including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) where producers can provide program-related content.

In most cases, CPB and PBS will not fund custom development (such as custom Web sites) for these platforms.

About CPB

CPB promotes the growth and development of public media in communities throughout America.

Programs & Projects

CPB awards grants to stations and independent producers to create programs and services.