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At first bite, Cookie Monster seems like a harmless creature whose only flaw is acting on the needs of his stomach over the recommendations of his brain. In reality, this is a battle-hardened veteran who is set to play a bigger role in one of the media industry’s most intense brawls.

The furry, azure creature, known for his time on “Sesame Street” and even in a commercial for Apple, will soon boost WarnerMedia’s efforts to win new fans of its kids programming, and to keep those who already have a connection from breaking it. WarnerMedia and Sesame Workshop, currently in the middle of a pact that lasts through 2025, are expanding the work the educational-programming company will do for the media giant. Cookie Monster, Elmo and Abby Cadabby will appear as robot heroes in the new series “Sesame Street Mecha Builders,” which aims to burnish older preschoolers’ thinking about science and technology, and will debut on WarnerMedia’s Cartoonito programming block on Monday, May 9, before appearing on the company’s HBO Max streaming service. A number of other Sesame-infused projects are also in the works.

Sesame Workshop content is “one of the strongest performers on the kids’ section” of HBO Max, says Tom Ascheim, president of kids, young adults and classics programming at WarnerMedia, in an interview. Sesame has produced its flagship show for WarnerMedia as well as a series featuring Elmo that emulates the feel of a late-night program, yet continues to aim at kids. “In the past , ‘Sesame Street’ was falling in linear ratings in relation to some of their more modern competitors, like Nickelodeon,” he says. “I think in streaming, people are finding them again.”

The expanded content agreement puts a new spotlight on the growing importance of kids’ programming as media companies wage a high-pitched fight for streaming subscribers. While owned by corporate parent AT&T, WarnerMedia placed all its kids-production efforts under the aegis of Ascheim, the better to orchestrate the flow of programing between linear and digital screens. The company also unveiled Cartoonito, a daily schedule on Cartoon Network devoted to viewers decidedly too young for such fare as “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “Squidbillies.”  Those efforts could be of more importance to Discovery, which is slated to acquire WarnerMedia in April and which has not met with as much success in kids’ media. Discovery once operated The Hub, a cable network, in a joint venture with Hasbro. But the outlet, now called Discovery Family Channel, has scaled back some of its ambitions, and Hasbro indicated earlier this year it was “evaluating” what to do with its 40% stake in the operation.

When Sesame Workshop and HBO first struck an agreement in 2015, it was seen a means of keeping the company’s flagship series, “Sesame Street,” in production as traditional generators of revenue, like DVDs, began to flag. In exchange, HBO won the right to run new episodes of the landmark series first before they appeared on its longtime home, PBS. Now, says Steve Youngwood, Sesame Workshop’s CEO, WarnerMedia’s expanding efforts to reach younger viewers  have “opened up more opportunities to grow with them, and get greater reach and engagement.”

Sesame Workshop will produce more series and specials for WarnerMedia, including the upcoming preschool show “Bea’s Block,” about a set of wooden-block characters who stack and roll through various adventures. A Sesame Street-themed reimagining of The Nutcracker that stars Elmo and his new puppy, Tango, is expected to debut in time for the 2022 holiday season. Sesame Workshop is also expected to start production on a new animated miniseries based on E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web,” with the blessing from the author’s estate and granddaughter, according to Youngwood.

In the not-too-distant past, says the executive, “Sesame Street” was his company’s main product. Now, he says in an interview, Sesame Workshop has developed a broader portfolio of efforts that try to adhere to the same mission of that program. “There are so many different ways to reach audiences, and you can reach them in a much more targeted way. It doesn’t have to be one thing for everybody,” Youngwood says in. “It’s also a necessity. If we want to have impact at scale, you need to reach people in many different ways.”

Sesame Workshop’s WarnerMedia ties aren’t limited to the kids’ division. Sesame also has a separate agreement with CNN that has resulted in some educational efforts and forums during the pandemic. Executives are optimistic about “The Sesame Street Movie” being produced under the aegis of WarnerMedia and director Sean Levy’s 21 Laps Entertainment. Coronavirus and other factors have disrupted production, notes Youngwood, but “hopefully we are getting back on track.”

The company intends to tackle more, says Youngwood. “‘Sesame Street’ will always be the core,” he says, but “you will see us doing more and more types of content and more and more different properties.”