Those pondering the age-old question, “Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street” will need to learn the show’s new address: HBO. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit which produces the long-running educational program that raised so many of us on Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and the whole gang, has struck a five-season deal with HBO that gives the premium network first-run rights.
Under the new terms, each new season will be made available first across all HBO channels, including the network’s streaming services HBO Go, and HBO Now. The new seasons will then be made available to PBS stations after a nine-month window. New episodes are expected to air on HBO as early as late fall 2015, and the network has also licensed 150 episodes from Sesame Street’s library.
“Our new partnership with HBO represents a true winning public-private partnership model,” said Jeffrey D. Dunn, Sesame Workshop’s CEO in a press release. “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 …”
Though older episodes will continue to air on PBS, the deal ends an exclusive relationship for new episodes between the network and the classic educational program of 45 years. Sesame Workshop says the new agreement will allow the studio to produce twice as much content — up from 18 shows per season to 35 — and to grant PBS stations the rights to older episodes free of charge.
Along with the additional episodes, HBO’s bankroll will allow Sesame Workshop to produce a Sesame Street Muppet spinoff show, and to create a new, as yet undisclosed educational program. HBO will get the first-run rights to all series in Spanish and English, after which the shows will make their way to PBS.
As the New York Times reports, the deal comes at a time when Sesame Street has been struggling to find funding in the streaming age. PBS only accounts for about 10 percent of Sesame Street’s financing, according to the report, and the show has had to cut back production in recent years, as licensing revenue from DVD sales and streaming services hasn’t been enough to keep the show at full production.
This new infusion of cash will allow for new opportunities for Sesame Workshop, while giving HBO a leg up in the lucrative market of children’s programming over streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, which will no longer be able to license the content.
“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 order to fund our nonprofit mission with a sustainable business model, Sesame Workshop must recognize these changes and adapt to the times.”
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