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Why Sesame Street Going To HBO Is A Very Big Deal For PBS And Public Broadcasting


This episode of Sesame Street is now brought to you by the letters H, B, O, and $.  Yep, Sesame Street is taking their new episodes from PBS to HBO starting this Fall.  Traditionally, Sesame Workshop, who makes Sesame Street, makes 18 episodes per year; PBS premieres a week’s worth of episodes in the beginning of September, and stages out the new episode premieres throughout the season.  Well this season, things are going to be a little different.  35 new episodes of Sesame Street, with its brand new set, will premiere on the HBO networks, probably HBO Family.  I would be surprised if this aired on the main HBO channel.  I mean, I love the classic Feature Presentation intro!

The episodes will also be available on HBO Go and HBO Now.  And PBS will get to air the episodes for free nine months after the episodes premiere.  Which means the new season of Sesame Street will not be shown on PBS until next Summer.  PBS will still be airing Sesame Street this season; it will just be older episodes.  And here is the biggie, the show will be 30 minutes long, and not one hour long.  So, why this had to be done?  It’s all because of the greenbacks, or money kids!  Sesame Workshop was losing huge sums of money; PBS only pays for 10 percent of the budget for Sesame Street.  And with lagging DVD and merchandise sales, something had to give.

Another reason for this big move, children and kids are not watching as much TV as they used too.  Instead, they are watching Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and other online video services, and that does not make a lot of dough!  Because of lagging sales, and the lack of funding from PBS, Sesame Workshop was in a deep and dark corner.  I mean, someone had to pay for that new set you will see on Sesame Street this season!  Sesame Workshop began to talk to many TV players to see if they could make a deal, and HBO was the big winner!

So now new episodes of Sesame Street will air on HBO.  Sesame Workshop will create a spinoff of Sesame Street and another new series for HBO.  And HBO will get to air the library from Sesame Workshop including Pinky Dinky Doo and The Electric Company.  This Sesame Street deal is just another example in a big and huge race for online children’s programming.  I mean come on; everyone from Netflix to Amazon is busy creating a ton of children’s programming!  Everyone is on a race to secure the rights to popular kids TV shows, and that includes HBO.  I have to think that they are not done getting the rights to kid’s shows to restructure their HBO Family channel and online apps.

Who could be next for HBO to get?  Hasbro, Mattel, Disney, I guess we will see!  Meanwhile, the loser is PBS and public broadcasting as a whole.  Yes, you will get to still see the new episodes of Sesame Street nine months later on PBS.  But, because of the big move from Sesame Workshop.  One has to wonder if other kid’s shows on PBS Kids or shows on PBS could do the same thing?   What’s stopping America’s Test Kitchen from moving to Food Network?  What’s stopping This Old House from moving to HGTV?  What’s stopping the Fred Rogers shows including Peg + Cat and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood from moving to HBO or Netflix?

Yep, I think this is very bad news for PBS.  I think will be seeing other shows making a move that now air on PBS.  Mostly because shows can make more money if they moved.  If more shows did make the move, it will reduce the number of shows PBS can air.  And with another popular PBS show Downton Abbey ending, will this move by Sesame Street reduce the viewer contributions PBS relies on to survive?  And could it get government funding cut off to PBS, especially after the 2016 elections.  You know the folks on the right would love to cut off funding to public broadcasting.  The excuse of Sesame Street is not going to be a strong one now!

To sum things up, I think this move by Sesame Workshop will be a very bad one for PBS.  You might see people who contributed to PBS for Sesame Street take their funding to HBO instead.  Even with Sesame Street being free for PBS, the reduced viewer contributions will hurt PBS.  This is now a very scary time for PBS and public broadcasting as a whole.  One has to wonder if state legislatures, like the one here in Alabama, would have no problems cutting off funds to state pubic broadcast networks like Alabama Public Television.  Hey, you can’t use the “we air Sesame Street” excuse much anymore!

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