Sesame Street moving to HBO via deal with Sesame Workshop

If you're a parent with young children who watch Sesame Street, this post is for you. I've got some bad news and some good news for you: yesterday HBO and Sesame Workshop announced a 5 year partnership.

The good news is that it means more Sesame Street. Instead of 18 new episodes per year there will be 35. Sesame Workshop will also be creating a Sesame Street spin-off and a third, as yet unannounced, educational series.

The bad news is that these shows will be on HBO first. Specifically for Sesame Street, HBO gets nine months to air the new episodes exclusively. Once the nine months is up you'll be able to see them on your local PBS channel, same as always. (PBS will be airing edited re-runs for the first nine months of the deal until the exclusion period starts running out.)

The really bad news is that if your kids watch Sesame Street on Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, you're going to have to make some adjustments. Apparently those streaming deals won't be renewed. If you want to stream Sesame Street you'll be able to do it on HBO Go/Now, or on PBS Kids.

My instinct is to shake my fist in rage at HBO for this deal, but Jeff Dunn, chief executive of Sesame Workshop, told the Wall Street Journal that the company has been operating at a deficit. 10% of their funding comes from PBS and the rest comes from licensing and DVD revenues, and that (as you'd expect) DVD revenues are on a downward trend.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like without some kind of partnership Sesame Street might not have been around for very much longer. Also to HBO's credit, they'll be giving the shows to PBS stations for free going forward, so that's one less reason for your local station to nag you during Pledge Week.

All of which is probably small comfort for parents who're used to sitting their kid in front of Netflix for some Sesame Street binging. 


Peter Smith

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