On the heels of some major changes at GBH Kids—including the departure of long-serving senior executive producer Carol Greenwald, and the series finale of flagship series Arthur—Lisa Jones, the pubcaster’s first GM, is stepping in with a plan to drive growth and usher in a new era.
As she looks at the pubcasters’ slate, which won’t include new episodes of the iconic aardvark, Jones is looking to fill programming gaps with new series, including Wolf and Button, a social-emotional learning show, and Corey Stories.
While the projects are in early development, and GBH is keeping a tight lid on the details, the new series are part of the pubcaster’s strategy to prioritize social-emotional learning, literacy, arts and creativity, STEM topics and civic engagement, says Jones. There’s a gap in the market for this type of educational content, she adds, as many schools don’t teach these nuanced topics as frequently as they once did.
She’s also on the hunt for series built around book properties and well-known talent who have ideas that fit into those pillars, are kid-focused, fun, educational and also inspirational for kids.
She points to the upcoming art- and creativity-focused 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 an executive producer and Randy Preston as a musical consultant, Acoustic Rooster also meets Jones’ desire of ensuring that inclusivity, diversity and equity permeate the pubcaster’s kids shows and business.
GBH has a workforce that’s 80% white, according to data it released in July, and Jones is focused on making content and building a team that reflects kids both behind the camera and with the characters on screens, she says.
“[GBH] has a commitment to address diversity, inclusion and equity and help underrepresented communities,” she says. “I do feel like it’s a passion of mine, and that passion will continue to infiltrate GBH.”
Beyond overseeing the content side of GBH Kids, Jones is also responsible for the long-term growth and business strategy of the kids division. She’s working to build its business with existing distribution partners, as well as fundraising, financial planning and legal teams.
While she’s not new to the kids space—Jones worked at GBH Kids as a project director on kids shows ZOOM and Fetch with Ruff Ruffman—after she left the pubcaster in the early 2000s, she ventured outside of the world of entertainment, working as assistant administrator for communications at the Federal Aviation Administration in the Obama administration, and as the deputy director of human resources for the Massachusetts Port Authority. Working in these large bureaucracies taught her the value of determination and pushing for change—even if it transitions are slow-going, she says.
“I’ve learned to be flexible with people and plans, and know that nothing happens overnight,” she says. “When dealing with complex organizations, you’re constantly on the move and have to keep being very innovative, and I plan to bring those skills to GBH.”
Going forward, her plan is to build on channel’s legacy of kids programming with new projects she and the team can be proud of, she says.
“GBH has such a long history of doing fantastic kids programming,” she says. “It has been growing in the last five years, and now we’re going to expand upon the great work that’s already been done.”