During pledge drives, public television stations routinely ignore one of their biggest audience draws — the daytime PBS Kids block — deeming the meager returns not worth the effort of disrupting the viewing habits of children who watch each day. But ongoing financial challenges at many stations have prompted some to test new approaches for tapping into the strong affinity for the shows.
An Auto-Tuned video of the late PBS icon Fred Rogers is going viral, with more than 700,000 views as of Friday (June 8) afternoon. The three-minute video was remixed by Symphony of Science's John Boswell for PBS Digital Studios. "When we discovered video mash-up artist John D. Boswell, aka melodysheep, on YouTube," the PBS studio said in a statement, "we immediately wanted to work together. Turns out that he is a huge Mister Rogers Neighborhood fan, and was thrilled at the chance to pay tribute to one of our heroes." It's the first in a series of PBS icon remixes.
PBS Kids unveiled last week its largest offering of math-skill games for preschoolers — a cache of 40 games that can be played on computers, mobile devices and interactive whiteboards. “As the nation’s children continue to fall behind, we need to embrace new technology to help them learn,” said Lesli Rotenberg, PBS’s senior v.p., children’s media. Games include Monkey Jump from Curious George, which has kids hop along with George and count as they fill a toy-store bin with bouncing balls; Hermit Shell Crab Game from The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, in which players help the Cat, Nick and Sally fit hermit crabs into shells of corresponding sizes and patterns; and Carnival Count-off from Fizzy’s Lunch Lab, which teaches children how to estimate added sums and count by fives and tens. PBS partnered with CPB on the project, which is supported by a U.S. Department of Education Ready to Learn grant.
With the all-digital future arriving, if haltingly, and a bigger share of viewers likely to come through DTV multicast channels, public TV stations are reconsidering how to use their bitstream, making over their channels, and in some cases adding new services to woo audiences. The wee audience, for one. Little kids and their parents are a vital audience and constituency for public TV, and mockups of the stations’ future DTV menu often featured a dedicated channel for them. To supply it, stations had access to a 24-hour PBS Kids feed, packaged by PBS. That changed in 2005 when the network acceded to the desires of its two biggest producers for children and joined a partnership to package Sprout, a cable channel for preschoolers.
PBS Kids Island, an online amusement park located on the Raising Readers website (www.readytolearnreading.org), offers learning games created by producers of Super Why!, Word World, Sesame Street and Between the Lions, most collected from their separate sites, grouped by reading skill and divided into three levels of difficulty. On the cartoony Island, kids can choose games to play from a carousel ride and win tickets they can use to buy things from the prize booth — video downloads, printable games and coloring sheets. In their own tree house, a kid can stash or play with their prizes and display their awards. Project advisors who work with low-scoring schools eligible for federal Title 1 aid encouraged PBS to give kids the opportunity to choose activities on their own on the Island, because low-income kids don’t get to make many choices or take risks or try experiments, says Sharon Philippart, project director for Raising Readers at PBS. Parents, teachers or caregivers sign up their kids and can monitor their progress through the levels.
In 20 cities across the country, stations are organizing Super Why! reading camps, hosting book-centric sporting events and concerts and handing out Super Why! and WordWorld DVDs at YMCAs and grocery stores as part of Raising Readers, the new face of pubTV’s Ready to Learn outreach efforts.
Debut this fall 
Jim Knox’s Wild Zoofari
Producing organizations: Jim Knox’s Wild Zoofari LLC. Producer: Rob Child. Creators: Rob Child, Jim Knox, Bruce Knox. Episodes: 14/30. Status: released on DVD 2006.
After fewer than half of PBS stations made commitments to carry a proposed multicast channel for school-aged children, the network pulled back its plan to launch PBS Kids Go! as a fully packaged DTV multicasting service in October. The network is instead exploring its options to distribute school-age fare via video-on-demand or broadband platforms.
“I don’t want to bring up a service and not have the resources to support it,” said PBS President Paula Kerger, who announced the decision to stations July 6 . Only one-third of public TV licensees expressed interest in paying for Go! as an a la carte service, while PBS needed buy-in from least half, she said.