On the heels of some major changes at GBH Kids including the departure of longtime executive producer Carol Greenwald and the flagship series finale Arthur—Lisa jones, the ad broadcaster’s first CEO, steps in with a plan to spur growth and usher in a new era.
As she looks at the list of pubcasters, which won’t include new episodes of the iconic Aardvark, Jones looks to fill programming gaps with new series, including Wolf and Button, a socio-emotional learning show, and Corey’s Stories.
While the projects are under development and GBH maintains strict control over the details, the new series is part of the ad broadcaster’s strategy to prioritize socio-emotional learning, literacy, arts and creativity, STEM topics and civic engagement, Jones said. There is a gap in the market for this type of educational content, she adds, as many schools do not teach these nuanced subjects as frequently as before.
She is also looking for series built around properties of books and well-known talents who have ideas that fit these pillars, are kid-focused, fun, educational and also inspiring for kids.
It points to the future focused on art and creativity Acoustic rooster, based on a book by Kwame Alexander, as a prime example of content she’s looking to pick up. The show follows a music-loving rooster who uses the fundamentals of music to solve everyday challenges with his friends.
With a black creative team, including Alexander as executive producer and Randy Preston as music consultant, Acoustic rooster also meet Jones’ desire to ensure that inclusiveness, diversity and fairness permeate children’s programming and the business of commercial broadcasters.
GBH has a workforce 80% white, according to data released in July, and Jones is focused on creating content and building a team that reflects children both behind the camera and with the characters on screen, she says.
“[GBH] is committed to addressing diversity, inclusion and equity and to helping underrepresented communities, ”she said. “I feel like this is one of my passions, and this passion will continue to permeate GBH.”
Beyond overseeing the content of GBH Kids, Jones is also responsible for the long-term growth and business strategy of the Kids division. She works to grow her business with existing distribution partners, as well as with fundraising, financial planning and legal teams.
While not new to the kids’ space, Jones worked at GBH Kids as a project manager on children’s shows. ZOOM and Go search with Ruff Ruffman—after leaving pubcaster in the early 2000s, she ventured outside the entertainment world, working as an assistant administrator for communications at the Federal Aviation Administration in the Obama administration, and as deputy director of human resources for the Massachusetts Port Authority. Working in these large bureaucracies has taught her the value of determination and promoting change, even if the transitions are slow, she says.
“I’ve learned to be flexible with people and plans, and I know that nothing happens overnight,” she says. “When dealing with complex organizations you are constantly on the move and have to stay very innovative, and I plan to bring these skills to GBH. “
Going forward, her plan is to build on the channel’s legacy of children’s programming with new projects that she and the team can be proud of, she says.
“GBH has a long history of fantastic programming for children,” she says. “It has increased over the past five years, and now we are going to build on the great work that has already been done.”