With many local pubcasters reporting sharp declines in daytime viewership, PBS programmers are reevaluating scheduling strategies for children’s programs, trying to get a handle on a problem that’s also affecting commercial competitors for kids TV audiences.
It’s a question that parents and teachers struggle to answer at home and in the classroom: how do we make math fun for kids? The creative minds at PBS Kids have spent the last few years devising a solution to that problem. With Ready to Learn funding provided through the Department of Education in 2010, PBS staff set their sights on creating two math-focused children’s shows. Their answer for the 3- to 5-year-old crowd was PEG + CAT, an animated series that debuted last fall. Produced by Fred Rogers Company, PEG + CAT teaches measurement, shapes and patterns, skills that help the characters solve their real-life problems.
Odd Squad, a live-action math series geared toward children ages 5 to 8, is the latest addition to PBS’s slate of math-based kids’ programming.
Decades ago, a teenaged Raquel Bitton locked herself in her San Francisco bedroom, suffering miserably from her first broken heart. Her only comfort was an album by Edith Piaf, the diminutive French chanteuse known as “the Little Sparrow.”
“It is the love that you love,” Piaf sang in “C’est L’amour.” “It is love that makes you dream. It is love that wants love. It is love that makes us cry.”
“I listened to it all and came out of my room with a decision to get onstage and sing — and to love again,” Bitton said. “I put together a little revue singing Piaf’s songs, telling pieces of her stories.
This reluctance to fundraise around children’s shows is “a conundrum,” Rotenberg said in an interview. “Kids’ programming is probably the most recognized and valued service that we offer … And yet it seems that, as a community, we shy away from it.”
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.