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Sesame Street Joining Game of Thrones on HBO

by Michael Goodman | 8月 31, 2015

Is this the future of public television in the United States? After 45 seasons on PBS Big Bird and the rest of the gang are picking up and moving to HBO. On August 13th, Sesame Workshop, which produces Sesame Street, announced that it had signed a five-year deal with HBO giving it the exclusive right to air new episodes of Sesame Street on the cable network and its streaming outlets beginning in the fall. Like every deal there are a number of winners and losers.


  • HBO acquires the crown jewel of children’s programming. HBO, through HBO Family, has a long history of providing family friendly programming such as Harry Potter-type fare to Harold and the Purple Crayon. None of this, however, can compete with the place Sesame Street holds in the hearts and minds of American parents who grew up learning about “Sunny Days,” how to spell, and how to count like a count from Sesame Street.

Children’s programming is a key programming block and HBO is facing stiff competition in this segment from Netflix, Amazon, and other OTT video services. HBO’s acquisition of the rights to Sesame Street gives it a key building block to create a cordoned-off area for children to safely consume content, similar to Netflix Kids. With a brand as well-known as “Sesame Street” in its lineup, HBO is positioning itself to become a significant force in children’s TV, a move likely to build influence with a key decision-maker in the home — moms.

  • This deal provides Sesame Workshop with new resources. Every legacy media venture needs human and financial resources to compete and to thrive in the digital media marketplace. This agreement provides Sesame Workshop with those resources. For example, as a result of this deal Sesame Workshop will launch a spinoff series based on the Sesame Street characters, as well as develop a new, original educational children’s series.
  • PBS gets more episodes of Sesame Street. The move from PBS to HBO will result in significantly more episodes of Sesame Street airing each season – 35 episodes of Sesame Street per year instead of the current 18. All of these episodes will eventually air free on PBS, freeing up resources that can be used elsewhere. In addition, the existing library of Sesame Street will continue to air on PBS.


  • Further stratification of society. The move to HBO doesn’t remove Sesame Street from U.S. public television entirely, that would be a public relations nightmare for all involved, but it does sort children into tiers of haves and have nots. Those in households who subscribe to HBO get new episodes while those who don’t (particularly poorer households) will have to wait. While this arraignment doesn’t exclude poorer children from watching Sesame Street it does inject a note of difference and separation into a show that has for 45 years dedicated itself to the eradication of such differences.
  • Potential negative impact on future public television fundraising efforts. PBS loses some of its appeal to higher income viewers, who might be more inclined to make a donation during one of its fund raising drives.
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