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
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.