Sesame Street

It may be 40 years old, but Sesame Street is just as relevant to today's children as it was in the 70s, 80s and 90s. We find out how it's managed to move with the times.
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Each year, consumers around the world purchase about $1.5 billion of Sesame Street-branded items at retail.

It’s a staggering figure, even more so when you consider that the property is actually 40 years old; Sesame Street first aired on November 10th 1969. Co-productions are currently available in over 140 countries.

“In its 40th season, Sesame Street garnered increased ratings, reflecting that the brand is still fresh, modern and relevant to the lives of children and families today,” Maura Regan, VP and general manager, global licensing at Sesame Workshop tells Licensing.biz.

The not for profit organisation is constantly looking to keep the show fresh, as well as adding innovative new products to the licensed line. It works closely with CPLG in the UK and has enjoyed strong success in the apparel category in particular. Marks & Spencer, for example, committed to a two-year direct to retail deal in January, and this is being expanded into new categories such as gift, stationery and publishing going forward, while Mothercare is also a huge supporter. Toys is strong, too, with Hasbro taking over the global master toy licence from 2011.

“Sesame Street remains popular because we strive to remain relevant,” Regan continues. “Each year, the show is designed to reflect the most current needs and trends in education as well as incorporate pop culture in way that’s engaging to children and appealing to adults.”
The celebrations for the 40th anniversary last year were, says Regan, “truly incredible”.

“Sesame Street was everywhere you turned [in the US]. From The Today Show to Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel to Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader and The Food Network, you couldn’t turn on the television and not see one of those familiar furry faces. We hosted a street naming event in NYC and received a proclamation from the city; we had a 40th anniversary photo exhibit in Union Station; and a three-month exhibition of Sesame Street memorabilia at Brooklyn Public Library. We could not have asked for more excitement and support from the press or public, and only hope we can continue generating the same enthusiasm for anniversaries to come.”

It’s not just about the TV series either. “Sesame Street airs year-round, but when we aren’t premiering new episodes, we consistently strive to seek out platforms and media opportunities to showcase our brand. You can find Sesame Street content on mobile phones, on YouTube and all over the internet. We have an innovative website featuring a plethora of footage, games and activities for kids. We have Facebook pages where fans can check out what we are up to right now and participate in the discussion. Some of our Muppets even have their own Twitter feeds.”

There were also changes on-screen to reflect ever changing technology and how kids are using it. For example, fairy in training Abby Cadabby became the first Muppet from Sesame Street to appear in CGI animation. The character’s Abby’s Flying Fairy School segment is designed to boost pre-schoolers’ critical thinking skills as they help Abby and friends try to solve problems. The experience is also extended online, generating further potential for licensees, especially as Abby is a key focus for the licensing business going forward.

Regan confirms: “Our main goals [this year] are to launch more Abby product, building on the momentum we have started, expand our HHFL programme and expand our soft lines business.”

And where does she see Sesame Street in five years’ time? “Even bigger and better, reaching more children in more countries, creating products that excite and delight and being the pre-eminent provide of great content for children.”

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