The Magic of Sesame Street


TV Kids Summer Festival viewers got to spend some time with Cookie Monster before hearing from Ed Wells about how Sesame Workshop is building its content slate and its presence across the globe.

Wells is executive VP and head of global media and education at Sesame Workshop. His conversation with TV Kids’ Anna Carugati began with him discussing Sesame Street’s enduring appeal as it heads into season 52 this year. “Our philosophy hasn’t changed. We are focused on core values like kindness and respect that we think are timeless and work not only in the U.S. but across the world. But we do realize the needs of children change periodically.”

Read excerpts from the session below, and watch the entire video here.

Over the course of five decades, Sesame Workshop has understood that it needs to “focus on different issues and different needs because the environment has changed. Every year we take a step back and convene experts in curriculum and psychology and caregivers to say, what are kids and families facing right now that we need to address? What are the key issues in early childhood development that we can make a difference in? We try to narrow in on one or two core themes and build a curriculum and shows around that. That’s a constant reinvention.”

In addition to adapting to kids’ changing needs, Sesame Workshop has kept up with shifts in the media industry at large. “You’ve seen us evolve over the years from being primarily a linear platform to being now in the space where we are active across multiple different platforms, from linear to on-demand to digital ed-tech.”

Sesame Workshop has also evolved its content slate. “We are more active now in our 51st year in different types of content and in different kinds of impact initiatives than we’ve ever been. We’ve gone from having one flagship program in production to having six or more in active production, more in active development and a slate beyond that that we’re teeing up.”

Those run across different styles, including animation, live action and puppetry, Wells said, with a range of partners, including WarnerMedia, Apple TV+, Netflix and Tencent. “We’re interested in finding great content solutions for early childhood education with great partners that deliver that content and share our fundamental belief system.”

Partners need to be “aligned with our overall mission of helping kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder,” Wells explained. “We look for partners that believe in that mission, that understand the power of early childhood education to make an impact on the future. And we have a vigorous vetting process. You have to say no sometimes when there just isn’t the right alignment.”

On Sesame Workshop’s global reach, Wells noted: “We have distribution of our content in more than 130 countries around the world, but we also want to be active on the ground.” Examples include efforts around the Syrian refugee crisis, with Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee receiving a $100 million grant as part of the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change initiative. That grant helped to fund Ahlan Simsim, “designed to help children with the skills they need to make it through these very difficult times.”

Wells also discussed Sesame Workshop’s Coming Together initiative, “focused on addressing race in a more intentional manner than we had addressed it before.” That included a CNN town hall on race and the Power of We special with HBO Max. “Now we are working on an educational framework for race. It will help children think through racial identity, racial equity and inclusion, as well as all the way through to being an ‘upstander’—not just being a bystander or being non-racist, but also understanding the power of being anti-racist and what that means and how you can use your voice.”