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PBS (or The Public Broadcasting Service) is an American public broadcaster and television program distributor made up of more than 350 member television stations. PBS is an independently operated non-profit organization, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, US.
It aired Shining Time Station (starting on 29 January 1989), along with other kids shows during the PTV Park era in the mid-'90s. Its primary fundraiser is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It began airing Thomas & Friends in its normal form under the PBS Kids banner on Sunday 5 September 2004 using the airings from Nick Jr. in the UK, redubbing it with Michael Brandon's narration and starting the airings with pairings featuring two episodes from Series 8 with a Series 7 episode in between. Thomas & Friends then aired on PBS in the United States on weekends with new episodes on Saturdays. In 2011, Thomas & Friends started appearing more often on weekdays. On 15 May 2013, PBS Kids announced that Thomas & Friends would move to the daily schedule on weekdays, which started on 7 October 2013 when Series 17 premiered, due to an increase in ratings of nearly 110 million households. The model episodes stopped airing on 13 September 2013, in favor of the CGI Series. A microsite was added on the PBS Kids website as well. An underwriting spot was added on 21 September 2013 with then-narrator of Thomas & Friends, Mark Moraghan, announcing it replacing the Rev W Awdry's Letter segment and the Welcome to the Island of Sodor opening.
PBS Kids Sprout started to release Thomas & Friends on Comcast On-Demand on 4 April 2005 and 26 September 2005 on TV. They aired most of the entire model series as individual episodes, with restored versions of the first three seasons for the first time in the US. Thomas & Friends and a lot of other shows stopped airing on Sprout on 26 September 2015 because NBC Universal/Comcast took full control of the channel and dropped PBS Kids from their branding. The channel is now called Universal Kids.
On 16 January 2017, PBS launched a brand new 24/7/365 channel, called PBS Kids Channel. Thomas & Friends aired in a daily hour-long slot at 11 am ET/PT and 10 am Central.
The Thomas & Friends partnership with PBS ended on 31 December 2017. In addition, the website was removed on 19 December 2017.
Starting on 15 December 2017, Thomas & Friends aired on Nickelodeon for a limited time. It began airing full time on Nick Jr. starting on 12 March 2018.
- On 10 February 2018, an old Thomas & Friends ad from the CGI Series aired, advertising Thomas on PBS, despite the series' partnership with PBS ending. Thomas still also appears in several PBS promo ads.
- During the airings for the Series 19 episodes, PBS had mistaken a few Series 18 episodes as part of it on an advertisement for the episodes' airings.
- When Sprout celebrated their tenth anniversary, it was announced that some kids shows, including Thomas, were not going to be broadcasted on their channel anymore.
- Journey Beyond Sodor was the last special to be broadcasted on PBS.