The ABC’s of PBS: NOVA

Seasons: 24...
February 1, 1998

Seasons: 24

Producing station: wgbh

Viewership: 10 million per episode

Demographic: Largely male, over 35

Budget per hour: us$500,000

New programs a year: 20

nova is the longest running, most watched pbs primetime series. It’s billed as an intellectual adventure, under the slogan: Science Adventures for Curious Grown-ups. Series producer Beth Hoppe explains that while nova ‘has a real mission of science education, I think we try to do it in an entertaining, adventurous way.’

nova’s yearly slate used to be filled with five in-house productions, five coproductions and ten acquisitions, but an international rise in competition for the best producers and subjects has forced a change. It’s now much rarer for nova to acquire programs outright because of the prohibitive cost attached. They prefer to get involved earlier in a project so they have more control and get a better finished product. The slate is filled evenly with coproductions and projects they take on themselves. Usually about 15 of the programs use independent producers.

The best way for a producer to approach nova, explains Hoppe, is with ‘an idea, some kind of access and some money.’ Ultimately, the subject is still the focal point, and even without money, they’ll find a place for a project if it fits.

nova is especially interested in finding new ways to tackle science programming, telling a compelling story with a scientific basis. The recent show Einstein Revealed, for example, used actors and recreations to help bring the life and character of the physicist to life, while telling the complex story of his work.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.