The process for applying to Open Call has changed.
Please be sure to read the updated How To Apply page for details.

Open Call has two deadlines per year. The current application, the second and final one for 2016, is August 5th, 2016 at 4:00pm PDT.

The application review process

In an effort to reduce the time between deadline and notification and to simplify the process for applicants, we have implemented a new online application system and adjusted the review process. Applicants should expect to be notified about the status of their submission approximately 12 to 15 weeks following the deadline.

Open Call applications are reviewed in a two-phase review process by ITVS staff and industry peers using a specific set of criteria. Applicants will create an account and upload all their application materials online. In the first phase of the review process, ITVS staff and readers evaluate application materials. The top eight to ten percent are asked to submit additional materials for a feasibility review national peer review panel. Decisions are based on the panel recommendations for funding along with feasibility evaluations and overall portfolio review by ITVS staff. Open Call is extremely competitive as we are only able to fund between one and three percent of the Open Call applicants. The application review process takes up to 15 weeks. Producers of programs selected for funding will be required to attend an orientation.

Timetable for a round of Open Call

  • After the submission deadline, all applicants will receive notification of their status within seven weeks.
  • Feasibility Review and Panel Review: A small group of finalists will be asked to submit an extended budget and production questionnaire (also submitted via the online system).
  • Final funding decisions are made, and applicants notified, within fifteen weeks of the deadline.
  • Following notifications, applicants will be offered an opportunity to receive feedback on their application prior to the subsequent Open Call deadline.

Program funding selection

Successful applicants enter into a production funding agreement and receive a license fee in consideration for a license to ITVS of public television broadcast rights. The detailed ITVS guidelines for funding explain the process and criteria for program selection. Briefly, decisions are based on the merits of a proposed project and at the discretion of ITVS professional staff and peer panels. Decisions on program selection are made solely by ITVS, which is an independent nonprofit corporation and not within the control of any other public or private entity.

Production and distribution for ITVS funded programs

Open Call funding is not a grant. In exchange for funding and services, the producer grants ITVS the exclusive U.S. public television broadcast rights for a period of four years, and grants ITVS certain holdbacks on the retained rights, and a right to share in producer’s ancillary income. The producer is required to deliver a completed program that meets U.S. broadcast standards.

Here are some additional things to know about working with ITVS if your program is funded:


  • When your program is at or near completion, ITVS offers the program to PBS and works with public television programmers around the country to secure a sublicense of public television broadcast rights.

Creative control and rights

  • The producer has editorial, creative, and financial control of the project and will own the copyright.
  • ITVS will enter into a license agreement for exclusive domestic television rights. ITVS provides comprehensive services including funding, creative development through feedback, and, depending on the broadcast outlet, support for the public television launch including publicity, website, station relations, and outreach. ITVS provides producers with a handbook outlining the standards for packaging, underwriting, and product offers– (Producers who do not receive funding from ITVS can purchase the ITVS Production Manual). PBS also makes their standards public in their Red Book.


  • Producers grant ITVS the exclusive public television rights (and retain all other rights, subject to holdbacks required by the public television broadcast series or strand).
  • ITVS offers every program it funds to PBS. PBS can accept the program for the NPS (National Program Service or “hard feed”) or PBS Plus (“soft feed”). In addition, ITVS works closely with series like Independent Lens, P.O.V., American Experience, and Frontline to encourage placement of ITVS-funded programs.
  • If PBS and the various series pass on a program, we offer it to NETA, APT, or directly to every public television station through a process we call an “ITVS offer.” This means we buy the satellite time and feed the program directly to stations and then work with programmers across the country to encourage broadcast. This effort, known as station relations, ensures that some, many or all of the public television stations will broadcast ITVS-funded programs.
  • About two-thirds of ITVS shows have been offered through PBS subscription services such as NPS, PBS Plus, P.O.V., Frontline, or Independent Lens. The remaining programs are offered to stations directly by ITVS, or by NETA or APT.

Ancillary sales

  • If you enter into the ITVS license agreement, ITVS holds exclusive domestic public television rights.
  • ITVS encourages educational distribution.
  • Most ITVS-funded projects also have success in the festival, educational video, home video, and foreign broadcast markets. But people sometimes forget that television is our middle name. Our mission is to present works for television and not for theatrical release. We allow producers to pursue non-television distribution on a case-by-case basis if the opportunity arises, and provided that it is in the best interest of the public television broadcast.
  • Certain other ancillary sales rights are controlled by your contract with ITVS. You cannot, for instance, exercise any ancillary rights in the US before the public television broadcast unless you receive permission from ITVS.
  • We review all theatrical or non-theatrical distribution contracts to ensure they are consistent with ITVS’s rights in the film.

Financial reporting

  • ITVS requires periodic financial reporting, and it must be able to withstand an audit. Each year ITVS randomly selects a number of projects for auditing. Every funded producer is assigned a member of the production staff who works with them to review financial and narrative reports and other deliverables. The production department representative will also be in dialogue about the program and its progress.