HBO Picks Up ‘Sesame Street’ As Kids’ Viewing Habits Change

Sesame Street HBO premiere date
Courtesy of PBS

For “Sesame Street,” a new road leads to HBO.

The Time Warner pay-cable service said it would license the next five seasons of the venerable program, which has taught preschoolers for decades about numbers, letters, emotional development and the joys of a rubber ducky. The series has become a mainstay of the American cultural experience, and has often served as one of the first pieces of video entertainment experienced by the nation’s tykes.

New episodes will begin airing on HBO as early as late fall. And there will be more of them: HBO will air twice as many “Sesame” episodes in a season than has been the recent norm, lifting the number produced to 35.

“Sesame Street” will still appear on PBS, which has aired the program since 1969. But new episodes will first appear on HBO, and then be provided to PBS after nine months.  It was disclosed yesterday that PBS would run only half-hour episodes of “Sesame Street” in the fall, as opposed to a full hour – which has been the norm for years.

Under the pact, Sesame Workshop, the producer of the series, will also produce a Sesame Street Muppet spinoff series for HBO, and develop a new original educational series for children. HBO will also license more than 150 old episodes of Sesame Street,and approximately 50 past episodes of  two other series from Sesame Workshop: “Pinky Dinky Doo,” an animated program focused on literacy, and “The Electric Company,” a 2009 reboot of a series that was another PBS hallmark.

The move is certain to raise eyebrows: Should Grover, Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus be placed behind a paywall? At the heart of the transaction, however, are radically shifting dynamics in the way kids consume video and the manner in which companies get paid for them doing so.

PBS has for years funded only 10% of the series’ production. The rest was provided by Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization once known as Children’s Television Workshop, and that money was typically secured through licensing, of course, but also from revenues associated with the sale of DVDs. In a world where more kids are accustomed to accessing their video favorites through streaming video and subscription on demand services, those monies had become crimped.

“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,” said Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of “Sesame Street,” in a prepared statement.  “In order to fund our nonprofit mission with a sustainable business model, Sesame Workshop must recognize these changes and adapt to the times.”

For HBO, acquisition of the program and other content from Sesame Workshop is key in its push to establish itself not only as a premium video outlet distributed by cable and satellite providers, but also as a stand-alone broadband service that vie for subscriber dollars with rivals like Netflix and Amazon. Kids’ content is one of the biggest drivers of consumers picking up subscription-video-on-demand services. HBO also runs a cable outlet devoted to kids and family programming that is typically bundled with its flagship network.

“Sesame Street” is  “the most important preschool education program in the history of television,” said Richard Plepler, chief executive of HBO, in a statement. “We are delighted to be a home for this extraordinary show, helping ‘Sesame Street’ expand and build its franchise.”

PBS said its viewers would continue to see the program with which it has been associated for so long, but noted that “Sesame Street” was one of a bevy of series it distributes to kids, along with “Curious George” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” PBS began last year experimenting with a 30-minute format for “Sesame Street, the network said in a statement, noting,”We have worked closely with Sesame Workshop to monitor its success since then, and jointly decided to transition to the half-hour format this fall.”

Sesame Workshop’s partnership with HBO “does not change the fundamental role PBS and stations play in the lives of families,” the network said. Some families, however, may begin to associate “Sesame Street” with another outlet in the not-too-distant future.



Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 10

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Kathie says:

    while watching Sesame Street with my grand daughter this past week, I was sad to see it was only on for 1/2 hr, and did not touch on any letter or number. What happened?? I just read that HBO picked up the show… if you don’t have HBO you only get to see these awful 1/2 hr shows? This is terrible.

  2. ive alwaly love the electric co.(1970) about. i love you big bird.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I grew up on Sesame Street. My kiddos are growing up on Sesame Street. I am very upset about HBO picking up the show. I realize that it will also show on PBS, however PBS (according to their site) will only show previously edited shows. To add to that, instead of showing 1 hour episodes, it will only be 30 minutes. So Mitt Romney, you got your Christmas present early. You have to realize that if one show can be bought, other shows will follow as well. PBS programming for kids is fundamental to our society. Not only do these shows educate children in the United States, but all parts of the world.

  4. Lynne Mercier says:

    My kids grew up on Sesame ST. They Loved it. But HBO? I can only afford basic cable. What about the people out there with the same problem?. Their kids are missing out on one of the best learning shows ! If they can’t afford the premium channels their kids don’t get to see it. Trust me not everyone can afford the premium channel. Cable prices screw us monthly.I’m paying just over 80.00 a month for basic cable and lite internet. Way to.much! Again big business bites us in the butt! Not happy unless sucking our last dime. Its a shame!

    • Josh Mason says:

      If you read the article, PBS is still showing the series, so those families’ kids will still be able to see their Sesame Street as PBS can be picked up over an antenna.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Sounds to me like HBO is saving Sesame Street by providing funding but still making it accessible for free through PBS, so good for them!

  6. nancy says:

    My grand children will not be watching this…it was fun as a kid…you guys took all the fun out of it and that’s a shame..u people read to much on how the world has become and ur trying to make it that’s way..dont need to kids where still learning and where happy…THANKS FOR TAKEN THAT WAY..VERY SAD THIS WAS SOMETHING MY FAMILY LOVED..NOW U PUT HATE INTO IT…WOW

    • cadavra says:

      Can anyone understand what this woman is talking about?

      • patrick says:

        I think what nancy is trying to say here is that she is mad about what Sesame Street has turned into,and thinking back about the greatness it used to be.Episode 1839,”Farewell,Mr.Hooper”,aired on 11-24-1983 was selected by the Daytime Emmys as being one of the 10 most influential moments in daytime television. The show was about the real life death of Mr.Hooper,one of the first four human characters that appeared on the show,and the casts sad faces were real when doing that episode,and it was one of the proudest moments in the shows history.The shows ratings significantly decreased around1989 &1990,partly due to the death of Jim Henson in 1990 and the death of Joe Raposo,the the song writer and music composer of the show,who died in1989.The over use of Elmo,by giving Elmo the last fifteen segment on Sesame Street was not a good thing,since Elmo talked down to toddlers in baby talk.Elmo has caused roles to be reduced for some older characters,such as Oscar the grouch,Big Bird,Count von Count,Prairie Dawn,Grover,and Cookie Monster.And if those names are not enough,Elmo is the blame for the permanent departure of Kermit the Frog from Sesame Street
        Elmo is known as the ”Little Red Menace” by Sesame Street traditionalist. Elmo teaches children improper English,by referring to himself in the third person

      • cadaver says:


More TV News from Variety