Localization is a process that PBS uses to determine what stations are available to a user based on the user's location. On some PBS platforms, localization also determines the stations that are automatically selected for a user. The ability to make this connection helps ensure a stronger connection between audiences and their local stations. 

PBS localization primarily affects PBS-owned, digital platforms for GA and KIDS content (PBS.org, PBS Video app), as well as those stations and producers who use the PBS localization service for their own, external applications.   

How Localization works 

Since DMA is not always an accurate reflection of a station's service area, PBS's approach to localization combines license type and FCC designated must-carry boundaries to create a map of station availability at the zip code level. We are able to provide station availabilities by zip code, and by IP address (which ultimately maps back to zip code):

  • Zip Code: We return a ranked list of stations corresponding to a given zip code.
  • IP Address: We use MaxMind, a third-party service, to map a user's current IP address to its assigned zip code. From there, we return a list of stations corresponding to the given zip code.

If a user is currently localized to your station, they will remain localized until the localization cookie set by the user’s browser expires. Stations selected in PBS apps on mobile and OTT platforms do not expire; however, reinstalling or updating apps could require selecting a station again, which would require re-localization. 

Do not confuse localization with the method used to detect the actual physical location of a user. A users's physical location is determined through a separate process that detects and matches their current IP address to a geographic location (zip code). Localization provides station information for the supplied zip code.

IP address matching can have accuracy challenges due to changing internet technologies, service providers, and privacy laws. For example, the IP address assigned to a cell tower at a given time may not reflect the physical location of that tower. Since Localization provides station information for the zip code passed for the IP address (not the tower location), this explains why sometimes an inaccurate station list can be returned.

Benefits of Localization

Both users and stations benefit from localization because a station affinity allows users to receive local content and helps them to quickly find programming that is available in their geographic region.  Stations benefit because localized users have more opportunities to donate to their local station. 

PBS's localization model closely mirrors the communities that stations serve at a granular level and allows PBS to easily update station availability to respond more quickly to changes across the public media landscape. 

Testing Localization

If you are testing localization based on your physical location, clear your browser cookies or open an Incognito/Private browser window and retry localizing. Be sure to test on both wi-fi and mobile networks.

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