What is remarkable to me is that I watched this show as a child, and **cough** years later, the show is still relevant, highly-watchable and building a new audience of kids of all ages and races. A 1996 study found that 95% of U.S. preschoolers had watched the show, with 77 million Americans having tuned in throughout its tenure. As of 2014, Sesame Street has won 159 Emmy Awards and 8 Grammy Awards—more than any other children’s show.
- Have unwavering dedication to mission and values — Sesame Street is dedicated to helping “kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder” and has not drifted from this focus in almost five decades.
- But…be flexible with how you fulfill your mission and adapt to your environment — Despite its strong adherence to its core scope of work, Sesame Street has not relied on the same tools or form to deliver its content. The show has responded to emerging trends and demands such as jazzing up its opening jingle (hip hop-inflected at that) and tackling topics that reflect and affirm diversity. The show has even waded into the political waters in a sense, addressing children caught in the balance amidst the U.S. dilemma of mass incarcercation.
- Know and leverage your strengths — I don’t exactly get the allure, but Elmo is King. Sesame Street has recognized this and leveraged the cult of Elmo through spin-off series, products (remember the Tickle Me Elmo Hunger Games of 1996?) and more. Sesame Street has also spun-off other characters, including more recently, the female monsters, Abby Cadabby and Zoe.
- Diversify your funding stream/revenue model — Sesame Street started with the support of a Carnegie Institute grant. To avoid being vulnerable to fluctuations in philanthropic support, producers decided to develop licensing agreements to create additional funding streams. They also eventually allowed advertising spots, but selected a company with a scope of work consistent with its own (Discovery Zone).
- Make your company a great place to work — This can only be stated anecdotally, but Sesame Street must have an awesome organizational culture that supports, appreciates and appropriately compensates its employees. Maria, Luis and Bob (82 years strong!) are still hanging around, infusing soul and warmth to the show. There are also new, younger human characters in the line-up that will continue the show’s legacy.