[Authored by MBA Candidate Patrick Konyn] Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? This question is asked over a million times every day in over 120 countries around the world, including India, Egypt, South Africa and Kosovo. What started as an experiment in 1969 to help children from low-income families prepare for school, the Children’s Television Workshop, which later became the Sesame Workshop, set out to expand the medium of television from entertainment to a tool to help children learn (edutainment). Using market research instruments such as focus groups and visual tracking, researchers, educators, and child development experts were able to create a television show that could engage children and teach them as well. This was the genesis of Sesame Street.
Very early on, the producers of Sesame Street understood that they had captured lightning in a bottle. Clinical research documented that children watching Sesame Street were doing better in school than those that did not. Germany was the first country to show interest in collaborating with the Children’s Television Workshop to export Sesame Street. As Big Bird expanded across the Atlantic, the vision of the Sesame Workshop expanded to “make a meaningful difference in the lives of children worldwide by addressing their critical developmental needs.
By expanding its vision beyond the urban U.S. market, Sesame Street has expanded around the world. Filmmakers Linda Goldstein Knowlton and Linda Hawkins Costigan report in their documentary, The World According to Sesame Street, that Sesame Street has been so successful because while it has remained true to its vision, it has aligned that vision to the specific needs of the specific country.
For example, in South Africa, where HIV/ AIDS has ravaged the country, education on the insidious disease is a part of the Sesame Street curriculum. Similarly, Sesame Street has penetrated the war-torn country of Kosovo to teach the future generations to embrace the ethnic differences that devastated the country. One of the most successful reaches of the Sesame Workshop has been to bring Sesame Street to Bangladesh where most children lack any education, and 80% of the country has access to a single television station.
Beyond geographic expansion, the Sesame Workshop has also expanded its media reach to books, music, and the Internet. In 2007, the Sesame Workshop reported total operating revenues of nearly $130 million dollars. It continues to deliver on its vision to make a meaningful difference in children’s lives on that special street all around the world.
-Patrick Konyn, MBA Candidate