KCTS stats

The Client

In an age when user experience is the differentiator between media sites, Cascade Public Media decided to take a proactive approach in building a modern, performant website. Cascade Public Media is the nonprofit, community-licensed organization that has operated Seattle PBS member station KCTS 9 since 2016.

The Problem

Previously, KCTS 9 had a website about Seattle’s public television station. But with TV viewers migrating to streaming in the digital age, the channel needed their website to become KCTS 9. The new website had to become a first-class video viewing platform, where the community could livestream KCTS linear channels, watch free on-demand programming, and become members to access a deep library of PBS and station-exclusive content. It was crucial that this new site design open up opportunities to connect with a modern audience in a way that aligns with current industry expectations.

While users may initially come for local coverage and access to their favorite PBS programs—and stay for the great viewing experience—their experience on the site is an opportunity to turn them into lifelong advocates for the KCTS 9 mission. The Cascade Public Media team needed to ensure the site was ready for modern audiences while not forgetting about the members who brought KCTS 9 to where it is today.

Cascade Public Media defined three key goals for the new site:

  1. Provide a first-class video viewing experience that meets user expectations and holds its own against industry giants 
  2. Attract and retain members, whose donations make Cascade Public Media possible
  3. Become the cornerstone of a digital platform that will extend into OTT, mobile, and wherever else TV audiences migrate

The Solutions

The new KCTS9.org site, which Cascade Public Media launched in October 2019, focuses on a streamlined user navigation and nimble front end to address a number of key goals:

  1. Provide a modern site design that aligns with experiences users have come to expect with Netflix and Hulu
  2. Provide flexible architecture for future improvements
  3. Simplify the path to donate and become a member 

These goals were first identified during a two-day Discovery workshop in Seattle with the Cascade Public Media team prior to diving into the site build.

Providing a topnotch viewing experience

As we envisioned how the next five years would play out, the key themes that emerged were:

  • The market is going to get more saturated and competitive
  • Audience expectations are higher, and there are more ways to watch every day
  • KCTS 9 would not thrive as a traditional television station alone

This meant that behind the slick new designs, there needed to be a well-architected and performant site that was ready for whatever the future may bring.

We chose to build the new site on Drupal 8 and to prioritize community-contributed modules. The site tightly integrates a variety of PBS APIs with station-level curation, personalization, and original content. We also built the site to serve APIs for future projects, such as Roku and/or Apple TV apps.

KCTS show list
Show selection on kcts9.org

“Four Kitchens was a great partner who brought their A-game to help take our vision from the drawing board into reality. Our new KCTS9.org is a quantum leap forward from our old website, and the cornerstone of a multi-platform digital strategy that will bring Cascade Public Media into the digital age.”


Kevin Colligan, Executive Director, Product & Technology, Cascade Public Media

Integrate and elevate

We knew integrations would be a big part of this project, but the Discovery process gave us a deeper understanding of the necessary customization layer. Integration with existing PBS APIs and services was a large piece of the puzzle. From using an image transformation service, to importing information about video content, it all comes straight from PBS. This reduces the load on KCTS servers while still providing the expected content.

PBS didn’t provide everything, however. The team made use of Drupal-specific functionality like Entity Queues and custom blocks to set up Acquia Lift. This allows for management of promotional slots across the site that works with or without Lift campaigns running. Salesforce is integrated throughout the experience to get information on known users, such as whether or not they had access to Passport content that is unlocked with a donation.

As PBS content has a number of licensing and similar restrictions, it is important to determine a user’s location to ensure they are able to access the content licensed for their area. The MaxMind API is used to determine location information from the user’s IP address.

Improve processes and adopt best practices

For everything from research and testing to development, there was a consensus among the Cascade Public Media team that they want to use this project as an opportunity to improve their agile processes. Everyone agreed that it was important to validate that what we were building was the right thing, to use best practices while building it, and to instill governance that ensured the integrity of the product remained intact post-launch.

Inspiring a new generation of givers

While a lot of the enhancements focus on the media viewing framework of the site, KCTS is still a public media organization that relies heavily on the generosity of its audience. The previous donation flow took users off-site to a PBS-managed product called Pledgecart. Aside from being a disjointed experience, it often simply didn’t work correctly and was by far the #1 customer service complaint.

Although the solution ended up being a heavy lift to maintain PCI compliance, creating a custom donation widget and processing payments on-site is a substantial improvement to the user experience.

The new donation experience

The Results

  • Online donations are up 192% year over year
  • Nobody complained about the loss of underperforming content. Editorial content became a footnote to the video piece. Recipes got cut despite being some of the more popular content; early reports suggested nobody missed them because all the other content was performing so well.
  • 65% increase in site traffic year over year
  • Praise from other PBS stations

“Four Kitchens helped sharpen our agile practice as they built our website. Their architects, engineers, and PMs worked (virtually) side-by-side with our internal staff, using agile ceremonies and best practices to deliver maximum value.”


Kevin Colligan, Executive Director, Product & Technology, Cascade Public Media

The Details

It was imperative that this ambitious redesign launch before the Cascade Public Media pledge drive in November 2019. This meant prioritizing features from the outset at our Discovery workshop and using agile development to continuously align the work with the most important outcomes.

Our teams worked seamlessly together, from project management to development, identifying issues early and quickly implementing course corrections. We are extremely proud to have worked with Cascade Public Media. Their brilliant vision and partnership made it all possible.

Services Provided

  • Technical architecture
  • Integration strategy
  • Agile methodology

Technologies used

  • Drupal 8
  • Acquia Lift
  • Salesforce
  • PBS APIs
  • Paya
  • Slick
  • DFP (DoubleClick for Publishers)