The New York Times reports that the move was a necessary one for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces the show, since revenues from the series's main source of income, DVD sales, has declined steadily in the age of streaming and on-demand viewing. (Only about one-third of total "Sesame" viewers actually watch the show on PBS, versus other streaming/on-demand outlets, according to NYT.) Under the terms of the new deal, HBO will air new episodes of the next five seasons of "Sesame Street" on its namesake channel, HBO Go, HBO On Demand, and the HBO Now app; after nine months, the episodes will be made available for free as reruns on PBS.
While that trade-off may seem a bit unfair to the low-income families that make up a significant portion of "Sesame's" audience, the deal does have some perks: With HBO's budgetary backing, "Sesame" will now be able to produce 35 new episodes per season, instead of the 18 it currently makes, and a spin-off series featuring the show's characters is also in the works. PBS will also continue to air older episodes of "Sesame" during the upcoming fall season, re-editing existing, classic episodes for a new generation of pint-sized fans.
The deal is also a boon for HBO, which has been lagging behind streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon in the children's programming game (consequently, that means that existing episodes of "Sesame" on those other platforms will now be pulled). "Sesame Street" is easily the most-recognizable kids show brand on the planet, so it's a smart investment for the premium cable outlet.
"Sesame Workshop's new partnership does not change the fundamental role PBS and stations play in the lives of families," Anne Bentley, a PBS spokeswoman, said in a statement, noting that PBS stations reach more children ages 2 to 5, more mothers of children under 6 and more low-income children than any children's TV network, according to Nielsen.
Jeffrey D. Dunn, chief executive of Sesame Workshop, said that the partnership with HBO would allow the group to continue to produce "Sesame Street" and to further its mission to help educate children.
"The partnership is really a great thing for kids," Mr. Dunn said. "We're getting revenues we otherwise would not have gotten, and with this we can do even more content for kids."
It remains to be seen, however, if loyal viewers -- on whatever the platform -- will be as happy as the new partners. Like a basic math lesson straight out of "Sesame," it's hard not to see a difference between free vs. the hefty HBO price tag. Here's hoping those classic episodes that will still air on PBS in the coming months can fill the nine-month void of new content.
[via: New York Times]
Photo credit: Courtesy of Sesame Workshop