Editor’s note: Eliza Jacobs is director of consumer insights and analysis at PBS, Virginia.

In my short Q&A with Quirk’s in early 2020, I mentioned that our research budget at PBS is not large.  That is a somewhat vague statement and I suspect the size of research budgets depends largely on company size, revenue and other organizational aspects. 

When I talk about conducting research on a budget, I want to be clear that I am not suggesting a limited budget is the equivalent to no budgeted money. 

By way of a brief background, PBS is a private, nonprofit, membership organization (made up of 330 non-commercial television licensees across all 50 U.S states and territories), and a television content distributor. On some days, one aspect of our business takes priority over the others, but often we must balance all three. Serving our member stations and the American public are our guiding principles. PBS is a true variety service, offering television content across many different genres and on multiple platforms. In addition, public broadcasting is a federated system in which our local PBS stations have unique identities. These stations tailor themselves to the needs and preferences of their communities. 

The role research and insights plays – and how it fits within an organization – varies across our industry. At PBS, the consumer insights and analysis team (myself and my manager) is part of a larger team – business intelligence. The business intelligence group focuses on increasing understanding of audience behaviors across platforms in support of decision-making. My manager and I view our roles as central to understanding the why behind consumer behavior and consumer decision-making. What do (or don’t) PBS consumers like about an ongoing or new series? How does scheduling impact what they watch? What do they think of a particular series host? What aspects of print and video promotional assets wil...