American nonprofit organization
Sesame Workshop (SW), originally known as the Children's Television Workshop (CTW), is an American nonprofit organization that has been responsible for the production of several educational children's programs—including its first and best-known, Sesame Street—that have been televised internationally. Television producer Joan Ganz Cooney and foundation executive Lloyd Morrisett developed the idea to form an organization to produce Sesame Street, a television series which would help children, especially those from low-income families, prepare for school. They spent two years, from 1966 to 1968, researching, developing, and raising money for the new series. Cooney was named as the Workshop's first executive director, which was termed "one of the most important television developments of the decade."Sesame Street premiered on National Educational Television (NET) as a series run in the United States on November 10, 1969, and moved to NET's successor, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), in late 1970. The Workshop was formally incorporated in 1970. Gerald S. Lesser and Edward L. Palmer were hired to perform research for the series; they were responsible for developing a system of planning, production, and evaluation, and the interaction between television producers and educators, later termed the "CTW model". They also hired a staff of producers and writers. After the initial success of Sesame Street, they began to plan for its continued survival, which included procuring additional sources of funding and creating other television series. The early 1980s were a challenging period for the Workshop; difficulty finding audiences for their other productions and a series of bad investments harmed the organization until licensing agreements stabilized its revenues by 1985.
After Sesame Street's initial success, the CTW began to think about its survival beyond the development and first season of the show, since their funding sources were composed of organizations and institutions that tended to start projects, not sustain them. Government funding ended by 1981, so the CTW developed other activities, including unsuccessful ventures into adult programs, the publications of books and music, international co-productions, interactive media and new technologies, licensing arrangements, and programs for preschools. By 2005, income from the organization's international co-productions of the series was $96 million. By 2008, the Sesame Street Muppets accounted for $15–17 million per year in licensing and merchandising fees. Cooney resigned as CEO in 1990; David Britt was named as her replacement.
On June 5, 2000, the CTW changed its name to Sesame Workshop to better represent its activities beyond television, and Gary Knell became CEO. H. Melvin Ming replaced Knell in 2011. In 2014, Ming was succeeded by Jeffrey D. Dunn, and Dunn was succeeded by Sherrie Westin in 2021.
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