Beyond 'Sesame Street': A New Sesame Studios Channel On YouTube Sesame Workshop, the company behind Sesame Street, unveils a new initiative to reach kids in a digital and mobile age. NPR gets a sneak peek.

Beyond 'Sesame Street': A New Sesame Studios Channel On YouTube

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This morning marks the debut of new channel from Sesame Workshop. Those are the people behind "Sesame Street." The new channel lives not on television but online, on YouTube. And this news is the starting point for a series of reports on Sesame Workshop by NPR's David Folkenflik.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: It all starts with a big musical number, kids dancing on a street as they surround a big friendly figure familiar to millions.


THE KIDS: (Singing) Sunny day sweeping the clouds away.

FOLKENFLIK: Not that one with Big Bird, this one.


TODRICK HALL: (Singing) I want to go where the sunny days chase the clouds away and my favorite songs play.

FOLKENFLIK: Today marks the launch of the Sesame Studios channel on YouTube. And this is from its new theme song there.


HALL: (Singing) But if you want to be smarter, stronger and kinder let me hear you say oh-a-oh. Oh-a-oh.

FOLKENFLIK: Smarter, stronger, kinder, that's Sesame Workshop's long-time motto. "Sesame Street's" YouTube channel already boasts nearly 2 million subscribers and gathers more than a billion video views a year. It's not going away. Sesame Studios, the new channel, will present original digital shorts.

JEFF DUNN: We don't want to just be a one-trick pony.

FOLKENFLIK: That's Sesame Workshop CEO Jeff Dunn.

DUNN: We need to expand the intellectual property. We need to figure out how different kids engage. All of that suggests that opening the doors to new creators, new content is the way to go.

FOLKENFLIK: So Sesame Studios won't rely on familiar figures such as Elmo or Abby Cadabby.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Maybe you've got one mom plus you makes two. Maybe you've got three sisters or maybe there's only you.

FOLKENFLIK: This segment features endearing bouncing digital boxes and pegs called the Totems.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Families come in all shapes and sizes. Families are full of love and surprises. Families can be large or small...

KAY WILSON STALLINGS: We're trying to be really nimble. You know, we want to be able to have this ability to make content pretty quickly. But at the same time, we are not compromising on the quality.

FOLKENFLIK: Kay Wilson Stallings is the workshop's senior vice president for creative development. She says segments with digital puppets can be turned around in as little as three days, though CGI animation can take three months.

Todrick Hall, who wrote that theme song, is already a star viral video performer with 2 million subscribers to his YouTube channel alone. Stallings says it took him just three hours to turn around his song - the second time around.

STALLINGS: And honestly, the first pass at the song, you know, wasn't great because he thought - because it was for kids - that we were looking for this very sacrony, very gentle, very cliche piece of music. And we were like, no, Todrick we want you. We want the kind of music that you do, you know, to appeal to the kids and their millennial parents.

FOLKENFLIK: Back in the 1970s, "Sesame Street" reached between 5 and 6 million preschoolers each week on PBS. Four decades later, it reaches that same figure. But that's across all platforms, including public TV, HBO, video-on-demand, streaming, the Sesame website and apps.


UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER #1: The word of the day is humongous.

FOLKENFLIK: This segment, Words With Puffballs, features colorful animated creatures who look as though they've been conjured from cotton candy.


UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER #2: Himungus (ph). Hemingis (ph). Himongoos (ph)...

FOLKENFLIK: Sesame Workshop's CEO Jeff Dunn says no one owns the digital audience for preschoolers.

DUNN: We believe that YouTube is going to be, for this generation, a lot like PBS is for prior generations. It is going to be where kids congregate and get access to media at some of their earlier stages.

FOLKENFLIK: Dunn says Sesame Studios represents a new way to educate and entertain young children where they are on smart phones, tablets and computers. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.


INSKEEP: Putting his parenting experience to work there in service of you. Today on All Things Considered, scientists are drilling into a crater made by the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. They hope it will tell them more about what happened that fateful day. And you can listen.

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