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American Public Television Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Longest, continuously operating distributor of public television programming started with programs such as The French Chef With Julia Child. Today, APT is known for offering television’s most recognized hosts and talent from worlds of music, cuisine, travel, public affairs, lifestyle, drama and finance.

BOSTON (Jan. 25, 2011) –- American Public Television (APT) celebrates its 50th anniversary on February 6th, making it the longest-running, continuously operating distributor of public television programming in the country. Pre-dating the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) by about eight years, APT began by working with a small number of producing public television stations to help them broaden the audiences for their viewers and help build the schedules for the burgeoning number of local stations.

When APT was founded – starting as the Eastern Educational Television Network (EEN) in 1961 – there were barely more than 30 public television stations in the U.S. Today, APT distributes content to more than 355 public television stations across the United States and Puerto Rico, “still helping to strengthen and customize locally programmed schedules,” according to APT president and CEO, Cynthia Fenneman. “With about 7,000 programs in rights, APT plays a critical role in helping local public television station programmers build appealing schedules to meet the interests of their audiences,” she said. Public television channels are programmed by locally owned stations, with schedules designed according to individual markets’ needs and demographics. Fenneman believes the success of APT is directly tied to helping fulfill market-specific interests. “We work with producers both across the nation and from around the world, to deliver a content menu to satisfy the constant and the changing American audience demands,” she added.

Audience response supports the fact that APT programs are helping stations engage viewers. For the past five years APT has annually delivered approximately half of the top 100 highest rated public television titles, based on Nielsen Media Research, processed by TRAC Media Services. And stations agree. New York’s public television (WNET) station president and CEO Neal Shapiro said “APT provides content which stations could never produce or acquire on their own, making our strong line-ups even stronger.”

APT has contributed content across the broadcast spectrum, setting milestones in television history – not only public television. Some of the programming initially introduced by APT is now reflected in genres and formats across cable broadcast channels. Fenneman contends there is a clear difference, saying “public television is still first and foremost about educating the audience. We strive to make that education entertaining, with the majority of our programs centered on studying a topic, issue or a genre to provide viewers with lifelong skills,” she said. In the world of public television, APT has been a consistent leader with such milestones as the distribution of the first HD series to the system in 2001.

Lifestyle started here
APT programs read like a reference list when it comes to lifestyle programming. In 1963, EEN was first to distribute culinary programming to multiple markets with The French Chef With Julia Child. Today, APT’s culinary experts include Child’s friend, Jacques Pepin, Sara Moulton (who got her start on Child’s set), America’s Test Kitchen’s Chris Kimball, Lidia Bastianich, Todd English, Gourmet’s Ruth Reichl, Rick Bayless, Nick Stellino, Steven Raichlen, Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, Martin Yan, Tommy Tang, Paul Prudhomme, John Folse, Joanne Weir, Christina Pirello, Zonya Foco and newcomers, Andres Viestad, Claus Meyer, Eric Ripert, Rachel Allen, Marja and Jean Georges Vongerichten, John Besh and many others. The lifestyle specialty continues at APT, with programs including travel experts Rick Steves, Joseph Rosendo, Rudy Maxa, Richard Bangs, Art Wolfe, Darley Newman, Burt Wolf and the traveling team featured on the Globe Trekker series.

In addition, APT programs feature nationally recognized hosts P. Allen Smith, Katie Brown, Vicki Payne, Donna Dewberry, Gary Spetz, Sue Schewee and, for 26 years, APT has distributed the Joy of Painting featuring Bob Ross. Despite Ross’ death many years ago, Fenneman says his iconic show continues to be popular. As part of the how-to genre, APT offers a long list of titles covering topics from woodworking and crafts to exercise and health. “Our lifestyle and other series are often considered ‘family friendly’,” says Fenneman. In 1964, as more genres were filling its menu, EEN offered Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – still considered a benchmark children’s program today.

Programming milestones
APT has a strong foothold in news and public affairs, as well. EEN distributed the nation’s first daily, live, non-commercial news program in 1970, with Newsfront. The organization has a long history of news programming including Inside Washington, European Journal and The Kalb Report. For nearly 25 years, APT was the distributor for Nightly Business Report, putting it into national syndication in 1981. APT also offers programming with an eye towards audiences with specific interests, ranging from BBC World News and NHK’s global news program Newsline to Maria Hinojosa: One-on-One and In the Life for audiences interested in GLBT issues.

“When we introduced U.S. audiences to Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1974, we changed their expectations about international programming,” said Fenneman. Since that time, APT has been distributing a wealth of content produced outside America, including high profile-series Doc Martin, Dr. Who, Battlefield Britain, Rosemary & Thyme, and Ballykissangel.

APT has also played a key role in bringing musical talent to audiences during its 50-year history. The names of talent cross the spectrum to reach multiple generations: gospel choirs, Perry Como, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Celine Dion, Dolly Parton, Louis Prima and Jeff Beck. APT distributed the original Three Tenors featuring Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavorotti, and Jose Carreras. According to Fenneman, the series is “still going strong” now in its seventh release. Current titles include Paul McCartney, Liza Minnelli, Ani DeFranco, Jakob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel among others.

“Throughout our history, we have introduced new talent as well as provided audiences with an armchair, front row seat to performances they might never otherwise see,” said Fenneman. This year, APT is distributing the return of famed movie critic Roger Ebert in Ebert Presents at the Movies, with nearly 90% of the country’s public television stations selecting it for broadcast.

APT’s programming features a wide range of genres, including many award-winning documentaries and specials (Winged Migration, Swimming in Auschwitz, For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots, to name a few). From its early years as EEN, APT was first to bring live tennis to the airwaves, when now-veteran sportscaster Bud Collins hosted Tennis from Longwood in 1963. As recently as 1984, EEN distributed Ivy League football when the NCAA removed them from the TV football package for a period of time. “We have worked hard to stay in touch with what local public television stations tell us their audiences want,” said Fenneman. “That is why our relationship with producers is as important as that with the stations,” she added.

APT Worldwide
In 1999 APT launched APT Worldwide (APTWW), an international licensing division. With its own catalog, APTWW has become a leading source for non-fiction programming in the international marketplace, representing producers and suppliers. “APT Worldwide now licenses programming in nearly every territory around the globe,” said Fenneman. Programming partners include Discovery, National Geographic, NHK, BBC, and television distributors and broadcasters in Australia, Canada, Africa, India and many other nations.

Create and WORLD
Recognizing the organization’s strength as a distributor, collaborators and Boston-based WGBH have partnered with APT to provide distribution, content, marketing and other support for both the Create ® and WORLD SM television channels. Both channels are offered in association with PBS and NETA (National Educational Telecommunications Association). Create TV, which features the best of public television’s lifestyle content, was first distributed by APT in 2006, and is now available to more than 82% of USTV households – with 232 stations (108 licensees) carrying the channel. WORLD, which was first offered in 2007, carries public television and privately sourced, high quality documentary, news and public affairs content. WORLD is undergoing an audience and platform-broadening effort and is now available to more than 44% of USTV households. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has been a key funder of both TV channels.

APT acknowledges its 50th anniversary with the launch of a new brand mark and a broader website – “we want to be able to provide viewers with more programming information and direct them to their local public television stations,” explained Fenneman. According to Fenneman, the new logo – which incorporates many different-sized blue squares and rectangles – is designed to represent APT’s interest in providing content on the many screens where viewers are watching. Adding the APT acronym to the logo is also a nod to how the organization has become know to its station and producer base. “But we’re making sure that those who know us as American Public Television will still be able to find us,” said Fenneman. “We’re staying with this name,” she said, alluding to the three name changes the organization has undertaken since 1961.


About APT
American Public Television (APT) has been a leading distributor of high-quality, top-rated programming to America’s public television stations since 1961. In 2010, APT distributed nearly half of the top 100 highest-rated public television titles. Among its 300 new program titles per year are prominent documentaries, news and current affairs programs, dramatic series, how-to programs, children’s series and classic movies, including For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots, A Ripple of Hope, Rick Steves' Europe, Newsline, Globe Trekker, Simply Ming, America's Test Kitchen From Cook’s Illustrated, Lidia's Italy, P. Allen Smith's Garden Home, Murdoch Mysteries, Doc Martin, Rosemary & Thyme, The Rat Pack: Live and Swingin’, Johnny Mathis: Wonderful, Wonderful! and John Denver: The Wildlife Concert. APT also licenses programs internationally through its APT Worldwide service. In 2006, APT launched Create® – the TV channel featuring the best of public television's lifestyle programming. APT is also a partner in the WORLD™ channel expansion project including its web presence at For more information about APT’s programs and services, visit For more information on Create, visit

For historical highlights reel and/or new logo pdf

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