Sesame Street’s 1-2-3s and 9-9-0s
When it comes to Sesame Workshop’s budget, there are a lot of numbers out there. The Count may get it, but almost everyone else is confused.
Sesame Street receives, on average, about $1.5 million from PBS each year. You may have read that PBS gives us $7 million or $8 million each year. That’s an easy mistake to make. But we’re Sesame Street, and we’re going to do what we do best.
We’re going to explain it.
Not-for-profit organizations are required to publish their informational returns, IRS Form 990, on their websites. It shows where the organization’s money comes from and where it goes to. If you look at our Form 990s from years past and go to Part VIII (page nine), there’s a “Statement of Revenue.” That’s where our money comes from.
The first part of that has a line – 1e, if you’re following along — called “Government grants (contributions).” In our fiscal year 2010 (ending June 30, 2010), that number was just under $8 million; in fiscal year 2011, it was about $7 million. Many people are looking at that number and thinking “PBS!”
But PBS funding for Sesame Street is not included in that number. Let’s break it down. We’ll use the fiscal year 2011 number because it’s our most recent.
The $7 million came primarily from three sources:
* About $1.6 million from the Department of Education, for The Electric Company.
* Another $4.4 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development, facilitating the production of local educational initiatives in places like Nigeria, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.
* And another $700,000 or so from the Department of Health and Human Services, for our Healthy Habits for Life initiative.
But PBS funding for Sesame Street is not there.
PBS is funded, in part, by an organization called the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (or CPB), which you’ve probably heard mentioned on PBS shows for decades. CPB is “a private corporation funded by the American people.” CPB gives money to PBS and to NPR, among others. A lot of that is on a project basis — for example, a few years ago, CPB gave us money so that we could bring back The Electric Company in order to help bridge the literacy gap among underprivileged children in early elementary school.
So where’s the PBS’s financial support for Sesame Street appear on our Form 990? It’s part of line 1f – “All other contributions, gifts, grants, and similar amounts not included above.” It includes all the money we get from our corporate sponsors who have partnered with us to bring our educational content to children around the world, and, yes, it includes PBS, too.
Of the nearly $32 million on that line, $1.5 million is from PBS. PBS pays us a $4 million licensing fee to produce and deliver about two dozen new hour-long episodes of Sesame Street each year. And we give part of it back.
Our corporate sponsors and product licensees bring in revenue so that we can meet our mission, and we could not do that without the reach of PBS. So each year, we return about $2.5 million of that $4 million to PBS.
$4 million minus $2.5 million? As a Sesame Street fan, you can quickly figure out that each year, we receive $1.5 million from PBS.
But let’s be perfectly clear, were it not for PBS and CPB, Sesame Street would not exist. From initial government investment, we’ve built a financially sustainable model through public private partnerships. And today, we continue to rely on PBS to deliver on our mission of helping all children reach their highest potential. It is through PBS and their member stations, that we are able to provide commercial free educational programming to all US children, particularly those who need Sesame Street the most.