In television the target demographic influences decisions of the format, scheduled distribution and how they anticipate the content to be experienced. As the years went on in children’s television the audiences for different shows changed. In the example of Sesame Street, the viewers of the show began to be predominantly children who were pre-school aged children, much younger than the early elementary school children who were the target during the original run of the show.
Viewing habits are much different for children younger than the age of five. More priority is placed on content being watched in one sitting continuously and as a result the format changed. In earlier seasons of Sesame Street the street story ,which is the segment of the show that occurs on the physical Sesame Street was broken up into multiple segments scattered over the course of the entire 1 hour show. The reason for this was that the audience made up of an older demographic.
Considerations for the demo also extend to when the show airs. Pre-schools are starting the school year earlier and earlier and as of now the show premieres late September early October. For a children’s show geared towards that audience if the premiere occurs too far into the school year the show would not be able to assert itself as an aide to parents and teachers during the school year.
Premiering too late leads to a dip in viewership. Competition for viewers is fierce now that the marketplace has identified the value of revenue that comes from ad buyers targeting parents. As a result there are entire channels that are devoted to children’s television and commercials targeting parents and children alike.
Another major change is the emphasis on co-viewing. As the audience gets younger the way they view content changes. Co-Viewing is when a parent sits down with their child as they watch a show. In terms of educational television co-viewing encourages retention of subjects. In the case of ad-driven children’s television co-viewing is highly valued since parents will be with their kids as they are taking in commercials. An example of a co-viewing strategy is a segment on Sesame Street called Word of the Day a segment involving an A-List Celebrity and a Muppet character. The child identifies with the Muppet and the parent recognizes a celebrity from his or her favorite show.