Two years after a damaging split with PBS, executives at public TV station KCET (Channel 28) are hoping a recent merger with a satellite TV network will bring the station back to prosperity.

Last month, KCET finalized a merger with Link Media, the non-profit parent of San Francisco public TV satellite network Link TV. The combination, called KCETLink, is now headquartered at KCET’s Burbank office and studios.

Viewers will get their first peek at the station’s new image this week when KCET airs the program “LinkAsia” for the first time Friday.

Al Jerome, chief executive of KCETLink, said joining with Link is a major step in his long-term plan to redefine KCET.

“You’re going to see a spirit of more experimentation,” he said. “We had been so predictable for so long. We decided to embrace change wholeheartedly.”

For about 40 years, KCET was L.A.’s primary PBS affiliate, until the dues rose to the point where the local station couldn’t pay. It split from PBS, which led to the removal of “Sesame Street” and other PBS programming that had made up about 70 percent of KCET’s daily schedule.

In response, the station has been expanding its original programming. In 2011, the station signed a development deal for up to $50 million in financing with former Disney executive Dominique Bigle, though it hasn’t resulted in much programming. Last year, the station increased the frequency of its newsmagazine show “SoCal Connected” into a daily half- hour program rather than an hourlong program aired once a week.

But KCET is still financially reeling from the split. Revenue has fallen to $23 million for the year ended June 30, compared with $44.6 million in revenue for the year ended June 30, 2010. To free up cash and pave the way for a move to its new facilities in Burbank last year, KCET sold its longtime headquarters on Sunset Boulevard for $45 million in 2011.

Meanwhile, revenue is spiking for the competition in Costa Mesa. KOCE (Channel 53), the Orange County PBS affiliate, has become the primary PBS affiliate in Los Angeles. The station had revenue of $14.5 million for the year ended June 30, up 38 percent compared with $10.5 million for the year ended June 30, 2010.

Marc Hand, a co-managing director of non-profit public broadcasting advisory firm Public Media Co. in Boulder, Colo., said the timing was right for KCET’s deal with Link since the sputtering economy is still putting pressure on private donations and corporate underwriting, and creating a fresh image might help bring in new donors.

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