Notes from the Mediascape: Sesame Street and Nokia call innovators

Children's educational co Sesame Street Workshop has signed on with Nokia for its international Calling All Innovators Challenge in an effort to shape its future mobile strategy.

Oscar the Grouch might not approve – because he doesn’t really like anything – but Sesame Street has signed on as the title sponsor behind Nokia’s Calling All Innovators 2010 challenge.

The contest, announced Jan. 7, is an annual affair for Nokia, in which the brand puts an open call out to developers from around the world to create mobile applications and services for ‘real world scenarios’ in four categories: eco/being green, entertainment, productivity and life improvement.

Sesame Street‘s sponsorship is of the education subcategory in life improvement, which is dedicated to technology that can assist people in developing countries. The winning application may or may not utilize Sesame Street branding or characters, but it must be built with the goal of teaching early literacy in developing countries. The contest website is also highly branded with Sesame Street characters.

New York-based Sesame Street Workshop, the non-profit behind the television franchise, had a pre-existing relationship with Nokia and when the opportunity to support the Innovators Challenge came up, it fit in perfectly with the brand’s goals in mobile technology development, Jeff Fleishman, AVP digital media business development, Sesame Street Workshop, tells MiC.

‘We’re very interested, as a not-for-profit with a goal to educate kids around the world, in the unique ways that mobile phones are helping out in emerging countries, and that is where Nokia truly shines. We’re very interested in…how we can use mobile phones potentially as primary delivery vehicles for our educational content.’

Through the Innovators Challenge, Sesame Street Workshop hopes to gain a greater understanding of how mobile content is being used around the world through the tools that international developers bring to the table. They also hope to identify developers that can potentially help them to create localized Sesame Street mobile content for local markets around the world.

In 2009, the contest received over 1,700 submissions from 85 countries. And while Sesame Street is broadcast around the world, the company has local characters and versions of the show in 25 countries. For example, Fleishman says, Sesame Street has a South African character who is HIV positive, and helps teach children about living with HIV. He hopes that, in the future, mobile content can help deliver those messages as well.

‘That’s the type of thing that we’re trying to do with mobile content,’ he explains. ‘To use our experience and our characters to deal with local issues either in coordination with other media, or solely on mobile if that’s all that people have available to them.’