Sesame Street is getting an infusion of cash and a longer season thanks to a a deal announced Thursday between Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit group behind the children's television program, and HBO, the premium cable network better known for gory vampire tales and sexually charged detective dramas. Will Kermit learn the true value of friendship as he overcomes his heroin addiction?
Starting this fall new episodes will air exclusively on HBO and nine months later the shows also will be available free on PBS, its home for the past 45 years.
As expected, the Internet memes have already been bubbling up with Big Bird atop the iron perch from Game of Thrones and Funny or Die releasing a True Detective-style episode guide of Sesame Street's first HBO season (Bert and Ernie track down the Yellow King, the giant or "big" bird who has been killing children for fun and sport. They kill him with the help of Elmo, who now believes that he is immortal.)
The partnership will allow Sesame Workshop to significantly increase its production of Sesame Street episodes and other new programming. The group will produce 35 new Sesame Street episodes a year, up from the 18 it produces now. Sesame Workshop also will create a spinoff series based on the Muppets and another new educational series for children.
This may be one more thing we can blame on Netflix.
Sesame's partnership with HBO comes at a critical time for the children's television group, the AP reports. Historically, less than 10 percent of the funding for Sesame Street episodes came from PBS with the rest funded through licensing revenues, such as DVD sales. Sesame's business has struggled in recent years because of the fast rise of streaming and on-demand viewing and sharp decline in licensing income. Indeed, about two-thirds of kids now experience Sesame Street via on-demand and are not tuning into to watch the show on PBS. PBS was not able to make up the difference, so Sesame was forced to cut back on the number of episodes it produced and the creation of other new content.
Children's programming is a popular category for streaming services, with the outlets recognizing that they can entice parents to subscribe if they capture their children's attention. The Sesame-PBS deal comes as Amazon, Netflix and other online outlets are pouring resources into acquiring and developing their own original children's series.
The Sesame Street episodes now available on Amazon and Netflix will no longer be on those outlets because of the HBO deal.