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Susi Elkins: “Thinking big” to get “bigger and broader” exposure for WKAR programming

Lou Anna K. Simon, Susi Elkins, Mark Hollis

WKAR Public Media has launched a new, free, localized 24/7 children’s service – WKAR’s latest initiative to support early learning in the community.  WKAR will broadcast PBS KIDS shows 24 hours a day on an additional television channel called WKAR PBS KIDS, making it easy for local children to watch their favorite series during primetime and after-school hours when viewing among families is high.

“Our partnership with Detroit Public Television and with Michigan State University is really special to me because it really allows us to build the foundation about what our programming is all about,” interim director of Broadcasting and general manager of WKAR Public Media Susi Elkins tells MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis on MSU Today.

“It’s allowed us to work with faculty on campus and really dive into the research behind the early childhood education that PBS programming is built on. We try to distill that expertise down into 30 to 60 second video takeaways for parents.”

Elkins says the focus for the channel is children ages 2 through 8, “but the other major focus is the parent and caregiver. Research shows kids learn more when they’re co-viewing the content with an adult who can take them through the material.  And most viewers are watching in the evening after work and sometimes even late at night. The viewing there is double what it is in the morning so we want to have the most impact where the viewers are.” So they’re making the content available when, where and how viewers want it.

Viewers will also be able to watch the WKAR-branded live stream through pbskids.org and on the PBS KIDS Video App, which is available on a variety of mobile devices and tablets.

Elkins says it’s special to be licensed to MSU and that she wants to build on that relationship to create more compelling content that garners national attention. She wants to help get MSU expertise to a broader audience. She also describes how WKAR is tapping into the student population in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences.

And she’s working on relationships at PBS and “thinking big” to get “bigger and broader” exposure for WKAR programming.

With the launch of the PBS KIDS 24/7 broadcast and live stream, WKAR will also introduce WKAR Family, a new initiative focused on offering and creating educational programming and media for Michigan families that is free, accessible and available across all platforms.

WKAR Family will bring together the new PBS KIDS 24/7 multiplatform services, long-running WKAR education services programs such as “Ready to Learn” and additional WKAR- and MSU-driven projects.

On the radio side, Elkins says she wants WKAR to be the best in can be in both classical and news programming.  Some recent format changes are focusing news resources when more people are tuned in – during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. And she hopes to build a bigger audience with an increased digital footprint for the content.

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on AM 870.

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