Time Warner Cable will be licensing the next five seasons of the classic educational program Sesame Street to HBO, marking a major shift from the show’s tenure on public broadcasting to private television.
New episodes will be appearing on HBO beginning in late fall of this year. HBO will air twice as many episodes as recent PBS seasons did, with 35 episodeds planned per season. They will also host a “Sesame Street Muppet” spin-off series, another original educational series, and reruns of two shows from the Sesame Workshop: Pinky Dinky Doo and The Electric Company, writes Behdad Mahichi of the Van City Buzz.
Richard Plepler, CEO of HBO, said that HBO is fortunate to be affiliated with the show:
Sesame Street is the most important preschool education program in the history of television. We are delighted to be a home for this extraordinary show, helping Sesame Street expand and build its franchise.
PBS, Sesame Street’s home since 1969, will still be airing episodes 9 months after they premiere on HBO, writes Brian Steinberg of Vanity. Beginning this fall, they will only show half-hour episodes as opposed to the usual hour. PBS said:
We have worked closely with Sesame Street Workshop … and jointly decided to transition to the half-hour format this fall.
The transition to HBO is due to changing habits in how today’s children watch TV.
For years, PBS has funded only 10% of the series’ production costs. The rest of the money came from the Sesame Workshop, formerly known as Children’s Television Workshop, via funding and DVD sales revenue. However, this is no longer a source of funds in a world where streaming video is king, and more children are watching Netflix and Hulu than traditional TV stations.
Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of Sesame Street, said:
Over the past decade, both the way in which children are consuming video and the economics of the children’s television production business have changed dramatically. In order to fund our nonprofit mission with a sustainable business model, Sesame Workshop must recognize these changes and adapt to the times.
HBO will benefit by gaining subscribers for its video-on-demand service HBO Go. Kids’ programming is a primary motivator for subscribers to these services, so they hope to grow by expanding their educational offerings for children.
Pinky Dinky Doo is an animated show that helps children build vocabulary with a featured Great Big Fancy Word, and teaches them about the basics of narrative as the main character invents and constructs imaginative stories. At the end of each episode, there’s an interactive game in which viewers answer a question.
The Electric Company aired in the 1970s from Sesame Street’s first home, Second Stage in Manhattan. Its sketches about reading and grammar were designed to appeal to children who had outgrown Sesame Street, and included Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno, and Morgan Freeman.