Chances are that if you were a kid who had a television set in your home, you had at least one conversation with Big Bird about words, colors, or Oscar’s bad attitude. The PBS mainstay series “Sesame Street” has been seen by millions of kids worldwide since it made its debut in 1969, and has been running on the publicly funded network in that entire time. Recently, though, “Sesame Street” and many other productions that rely on public funding have received a series of budget cuts that have hampered the creation of new material, but in the case of “Sesame Street,” the show is about to return in greater force.
According to Variety, the next five seasons of the children’s program will be licensed by none other than HBO in a new deal that will see the show effectively doubling the amount of episodes produced, from 18 to 35. HBO will begin airing new episodes of “Sesame Street” as early as the end of this fall, and after a period of nine months, those new episodes can then air on PBS, free of charge. Yesterday, news came down that PBS would be airing half-hour episodes of “Sesame Street” starting this fall, as opposed to a full-hour format which has been the case for a number of years.
The new deal will also give HBO access to new spin-offs of the long-running series, including one revolving around “Sesame Street Muppets,” while also creating a brand new educational show for kids. HBO will also license 150 previous episodes of “Sesame Street,” as well as 50 prior episodes of two separate series from the Sesame Workshop: “Pinky Dinky Doo,” an animated series featuring literacy as the main focus, and “The Electric Company,” a 2009 reboot of the other popular PBS mainstay.
For the past several years, PBS has only funded about 10% of production costs associated with “Sesame Street.” The other 90% of funding came from the Sesame Workshop itself, which was primarily provided through merchandise licensing and DVD sales. Recent years have seen DVD sales shrink dramatically, since more and more children and young people have been accessing media through VOD services and smart devices. HBO will be able to help “Sesame Street” transition to this newer form of content delivery, though the move is likely to be criticized for placing the iconic characters like Big Bird, Oscar, Bert & Ernie, and Elmo behind a pay wall. Still, the move will give “Sesame Street” some much-needed financial breathing room, while also helping HBO establish itself as a VOD provider across a broad base of demographics against competitors like Netflix and Amazon.
For more on this transition as details become available, be sure to keep your eye on GeekNation!
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