The history of Sesame Street began in 1966, with dinner party conversations between television producer Joan Ganz Cooney and her guests. Those attending, among whom were Lloyd Morrisett (a vice-president of the Carnegie Foundation), discussed ways to "master the addictive qualities of television and do something good with them", such as helping millions of preschool children prepare for school. After two years of research, the newly-formed Children's Television Workshop (CTW) received a combined grant of $8 million from Carnegie, the Ford Foundation and the US federal government to create and produce a new children's television show.
Sesame Street premiered on PBS on November 10, 1969, with a groundbreaking combination of Jim Henson's Muppets, animation, live shorts and cultural references; responses included adulatory reviews, some controversy, and high ratings. By its 40th anniversary in 2009, Sesame Street had become "the most widely viewed children's television show in the world", with twenty independent international versions and broadcasts in over 120 countries.
Sesame Street has gone through significant changes in its 40-year history. The creativity and effectiveness of the show in reaching millions of children solidified in the 1970s. By the middle of the decade, Sesame Street was in "full flower", and by the end of the decade it was "an American institution". On its tenth anniversary in 1979, nine million American children under the age of six were watching Sesame Street daily. The show's success continued into the 1980s, an era of deregulation. In 1981, the federal government withdrew its funding, so CTW turned to other sources, such as its magazine division, book royalties, product licensing, and foreign income. Sesame Street's curriculum expanded to include more affective topics (relationships, ethics, and positive and negative emotions), and many of the show's storylines were taken from the experiences of its writing staff, cast, and crew. In recent decades, Sesame Street has faced societal and economic challenges, and in response to changes in viewing habits of young children, the show has made structural changes, including the creation of the "Elmo's World" segment.
Sesame Street was the first show of its kind to include a curriculum "detailed or stated in terms of measurable outcomes". The show has won eight Grammys, and more Emmys (over one hundred) than any other children's show.