“Sesame Street” is coming to HBO. In a deal between Sesame Workshop and HBO, the next five seasons of the Emmy-award winning kids program will be available exclusively on the premium subscription channel and all of its video-on-demand services: HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO On Demand.
For HBO, adding more than 150 episodes of "Sesame Street," as well as about 50 episodes of "Pinky Dinky Doo" and "The Electric Company," will allow it to compete with Netflix and Amazon, which have been expanding the amount of kids' programming in their libraries. Until now HBO has had children's movies, but not television shows. Children's programming has become an important genre for streaming services and one of the more common ways to hook in new subscribers -- i.e., by wooing parents looking for suitable content for their children.
Nabbing "Sesame Street" will also serve as a rebranding of sorts for HBO, which built its reputation on adult, envelope-pushing original content like "The Sopranos" and "Deadwood." Big Bird, Elmo and the lot could help convince parents that HBO is also a viable provider of children’s content. The network, of course, will need to acquire other programs because most children age out of "Sesame Street" around five or six years old, which is still far too young for them to dig into the type of programming HBO is known for.
“Home Box Office is committed to bringing the most groundbreaking and creative shows to its audience. Sesame Street is the most important preschool education program in the history of television," Richard Plepler, chairman and CEO of HBO, and Michael Lombardo, president of HBO Programming, said in a statement. "We are delighted to be a home for this extraordinary show, helping 'Sesame Street' expand and build its franchise.”
"Sesame Street" to HBO. There may be no better symbol of this era's shift from "free" media to "subscription" media http://t.co/3tFo41mqoF
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 13, 2015
Bringing "Sesame Street" to HBO will also help Sesame Workshop's financial woes. As CNN's Brian Stelter notes, the non-profit's revenue streams (donations, distribution fees and licensing) have been on the decline. This deal will allow the show to produce twice as much new content and give the show to PBS free of charge. Sesame Workshop is also working on a new "Sesame Street Muppet" spinoff series. New "Sesame Street" episodes will run first on HBO exclusively and will then air on PBS once the first-run window is closed. This also means that "Sesame Street" episodes will no longer be available on Netflix and Amazon.
“Our new partnership with HBO represents a true winning public-private partnership model,” Jeffrey D. Dunn, Sesame Workshop’s CEO, said in a statement. “It provides Sesame Workshop with the critical funding it needs to be able to continue production of Sesame Street and secure its nonprofit mission of helping kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder."
New episodes will begin airing on HBO in late fall 2015.