Founded by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett to produce Sesame Street, the company, currently run by President and CEO Gary E. Knell, has since produced many other shows and a variety of multimedia content. The CTW name was changed to Sesame Workshop in 2000 to reflect the company's reach into new media and capitalize on the worldwide recognition provided by the Sesame Street name.
Despite the insistence of the US Office of Education that there was no money to fund the project, Howe persisted, and insisted the project be classified as a research project. Ford joined funding, as did the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was being established just as Sesame Street was. Between those organizations and Carnegie, USD$8 million was raised to create a semi-autonomous organization. This organization was established to become completely separate, should they succeed.
At a press conference in March 1968, the Children's Television Workshop and Sesame Street were announced. Jack Gould, television critic for The New York Times, gave the project front page space. "If you had Jack Gould in your corner, you could not believe what it meant," said Cooney decades later.
With Cooney, an assistant, and a secretary, CTW began production on the show. Cooney tried to talk George DeSarde of WCBS-TV to come to CTW as producer of the series. Within a few days of being graciously declined by DeSarde, Cooney received a letter from Mike Dann of CBS, who eagerly wanted to join as an executive producer. Dann and Fred Silverman decided Cooney should try to get David Connell as a producer.
Connell had recently left Captain Kangaroo, and started his own company in an attempt to get out of the kids TV industry. After four meetings, Cooney talked Connell into signing on, after being assured creative freedom and no micromanagement on Cooney's part. Connell insisted on a few "non-negotiables". First, he wanted to include four hosts, both black and white, male and female, none of which would ever "own the show", as Bob Keeshan "owned" Captain Kangaroo, or Fred Rogers "owned" Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. He also wanted "commercials" to promote letters of the alphabet. Perhaps most importantly, Connell wanted a guarantee that education and entertainment would never be separate elements of the program.
While attracting Connell, Cooney received a call from Lou Hausman, who worked for the Commissioner of Education; he suggested Jon Stone, also from Captain Kangaroo, a producer who had retired to Vermont, though no more than 35 at the time. Stone came to New York to speak with Cooney, but declined the opportunity to be an executive in the production. Stone wanted to be a producer, reporting to Cooney; Cooney suggested such an organization structure would only create "madness". Stone and Connell had a history of disputes, which were smoothed out, after the two re-met. Sam Gibbon, CTW's third alumni, had also initially declined joining any children's programming. According to Cooney, the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, Gibbon called her to say "if you still want me, I'm yours." He was primarily involved with integrating curriculum into the series.
Edith Sornow, who was not yet the film producer for Sesame Street, called Cooney, asking her to come to the Johnny Victor Theatre to see a reel of commercials by Jim Henson. Cooney had heard of Henson before then, but never actually seen his work; the commercial had not aired in New York, and she had never tuned into The Ed Sullivan Show when his Muppets appeared. After "almost falling on the floor laughing," she was open to getting him to sign on, but was doubtful he'd agree. Jon Stone, who'd worked with Henson on ABC television special Hey, Cinderella!, discussed the idea with a reluctant Jim.
The Department of Education and other funders had decided they wanted to study children's comprehension of topics before and after watching Sesame Street, this was the format it took. Lesser also set up four two-and-a-half-day seminars over the summer with producers, to establish what was important to teach children. One session was on perception, another on reasoning skills, pre-reading and pre-math, and finally "affective skills", the period's term for emotional skills.
Cooney remembered seeing Jim Henson come into one of the seminars at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and becoming worried by his appearance that he was one of the Weathermen, as a building in Greenwich Village had just recently been blown up. Cooney whispered her fears to Connell, who told her the leather-coated man was just Jim. Once the two met, Cooney says they automatically clicked, subsiding Jim's fears of being "ghettoized" into children television, where he much preferred general family audiences. Joe Raposo, who worked with Henson and Stone before, was added soon after.
Frank Pace of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting warned strongly against the broad curriculum Sesame Street aimed to teach, when the organization he chaired signed on to sponsor. "Pick only a few goals, and accomplish them. Don't try and do to much, show... only three or four or five goals." Cooney remembers Pace tell herself and Connell.
Knowing that government funding wouldn't last forever, the Ford Foundation helped CTW start investing. The company bought into small cable systems in Akron, Ohio, Hawaii, and another location, worthwhile investments, according to Cooney. Not as worthwhile was 1977 Emmy Award winning mini-series The Best of Families. While Noble and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting each chipped in money, the Workshop came up $1 million short. Too late to turn around, it was forced to fund the miniseries with Ford Foundation money meant for Sesame Street.
In 1970, Mike Dann finally came to the Children's Television Workshop from CBS, in the capacity of international sales.
In August 1997, Fox Family started efforts to increase its quantity and quality of children's entertainment, "which could lead to an equity investment by Fox in the non-profit CTW in exchange for programs for its Family Channel." Nothing ever materialised.
Although Sesame Workshop is occasionally confused with PBS, Sesame Workshop is an entirely separate and independent organization. Some Workshop programs are broadcast on PBS, and although PBS provides some funding for those programs, the money received covers only a fraction of production costs. Other financial support comes from individual donors, charitable foundations, corporations, government agencies, program sales and licensed products. Sesame Workshop grants licenses to various manufacturers who create toys, apparel and other products featuring Sesame Street characters, and Sesame Workshop receives a portion of the proceeds.
This list excludes Sesame Street co-productions outside the United States.
Sesame Workshop Partners with Sourcebooks to Bring Beloved Sesame Street Friends to the Put Me in the Story Personalized Children's Book Platform
Jan 15, 2013; CHICAGO -- The following information was released by the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association (LIMA):...