After 45 years on PBS, Sesame Street is going premium. According to The New York Times, the show's nonprofit parent group Sesame Workshop has struck a deal with HBO to host its next five seasons starting this fall. The new deal will allow the workshop to product 35 episodes a year, almost twice as many as it currently makes. It also accommodates two upcoming spinoff series, one of which is an original educational property ostensibly separate from the world of the Muppets.
Sesame Street's move to HBO doesn't mean a complete loss for PBS. The show's new seasons will be available exclusively on HBO for nine months before returning to their traditional home on PBS, and HBO has also purchased the license for over 150 old episodes of Sesame Street. In the near-year between a new episode's premiere and its PBS availability, the network will air reconfigured episodes from the last several seasons to fill the programming gap.
HBO has to compete with Netflix's Dinotrux armada
Acquiring Sesame Street is a major boon for HBO's children's programming. That phrase would've been oxymoronic even a year ago given the network's reputation for violence and "sexposition," but it's becoming a necessary part of every network and TV service's toolbox in a post-cable world. If HBO is going to compete with Netflix's armada of Dinotrux and Adam Sandler movies, it has to diversify its portfolio and appeal to a wider audience. A subscriber is a subscriber, whether they're tuning in for Show Me a Hero or Sesame Street. With that said, there's still something unsettling about the premium absorption of one of public television's longest-tenured and most beloved shows, especially when it has to do with waning business and broader market shifts.
"I’ve long admired the creative work of HBO and can’t think of a better partner to continue the quality of Sesame Street’s programming," said Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney. "The economics of the children’s television production business have changed dramatically... Sesame Workshop must recognize these changes and adapt to the times." At the very least, this should mean a few more episodes of Game of Chairs.