The on-line department at Children’s Television Workshop has grown up and moved out on its own. Originally part of the Publishing and New Media division, Online Services is now its own division, headed by newly promoted group president Tina Sharkey, formerly group VP and GM. This leaves the old division, still headed by group president Nina Link, with a new Publishing and Interactive Software moniker, and a sharper focus on expanding in-house magazine publishing operations and building relationships with Random House and Mattel.
‘I think they felt that by having Online Services at the table, so to speak, it has a more direct relationship with Television and International, and can still continue its great relationship with the Publishing group,’ says Sharkey. ‘Because Online is such a convergent technology, it has relevance across all of our businesses.’
Sharkey is now concentrating on e-commerce partnerships, the existing CTW Family Workshop site (www.ctw.org) and interactive television development, either through broadband netcasting or enhanced digital services. She went as far as testing out WebTV last fall, but Sharkey says CTW has yet to make any firm commitments to one ‘enhanced’ broadcast platform. Asked about future e-commerce plans, Sharkey notes only that CTW already has links to the Sesame Street licensed merchandise section at eToys, and is currently looking to bring in additional partners such ‘the Mattels and the Toys `R’ Us’s’ of the world. As for the existing site, Sharkey’s focus is on continuing to build areas aimed at kids ages six to 11, such as the recently added on-line Sticker World community, as well as on launching a Baby Workshop area for the parents of newborns.
Giving Online its own legs has also allowed the head of Publishing and Interactive Software to focus on a recently signed agreement with Bertelsmann-owned Random House and to work more closely with Mattel Media and Mattel-owned software publisher The Learning Company to push out interactive titles. The Random House deal gives the publishing company the option of developing new CTW properties into book series under the CTW Books imprint, and distributing the titles worldwide through Bertelsmann.
Link says the first new series published under the deal will be based on the Columbia TriStar co-production Dragon Tales, set to debut on PBS in late September, with the first books coming out next March. The book series will initially be distributed domestically, but via Bertelsmann’s international distribution network, the books would follow the show into any new territories where it is picked up for broadcast.
On the interactive software side, Link says CTW is planning to add to the cross-curricular titles already published by TLC with new titles from Mattel Media, one of which will mark the first ever issued in conjunction with a new toy. Tentatively titled Sesame Street Music Maker, the CD-ROM will tie in with Rock `n’ Roll Elmo and Rock `n’ Roll Ernie, two ‘enhanced’ musical plush from Mattel streeting in the fall. One of the remaining titles will support the CTW/Sony Pictures feature The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, set to debut in the first week of October, and the final CD-ROM will be based on the Sesame Street segment Elmo’s World.