With the advancement of streaming channels such as Netflix and Hulu, it seems more and more as though the future of TV lies in the world of on-demand, on the go watching. More people than ever now watch their favorite shows via DVR, catch up, or streaming on a mobile device. This doesn’t only apply to adults, either. Kids are becoming more tech savvy than ever, and it’s now perfectly natural for them to watch an episode of their favorite show on a tablet days after it has aired. This in turn is leading to a competitive children's market, with networks striving to be the ones to secure original family content in order to boost subscribers.
Over the years, HBO has become synonymous with innovative programming targeted primarily at adults. Though they have ventured into children’s programming before, airing shows such as The Mr. Men Show and Fraggle Rock back in the day, they are primarily known for their original franchises such as True Detective, Game of Thrones and The Sopranos. Therefore it is something of a surprise that they have acquired the rights to the cornerstone of children’s TV: Sesame Street.
Sesame Workshop and HBO have agreed on a five year deal that will bring the first run of all new Sesame TV shows to the premium cable channel starting in the fall. The deals calls for Sesame Workshop to produce 35 new episodes of Sesame Street per year, up on the current 18. It will also make a spinoff series featuring the Sesame Muppets as well as another new educational show for kids. PBS, the current home for Sesame Street, will continue to air the show, with the new episodes arriving on the channel nine months after their HBO premiere.
The deal is something of a lifeline for Sesame Workshop, which have been facing financial challenges for quite some time. The company has relied on DVD sales for most of its funding for new episodes, and these sales have take a sharp decline in recent years with the advancement of on-demand TV. Meanwhile, for HBO, this deal not only helps the company expand into Children’s TV, it will also help boost subscribers who will see the premium channel as having something to offer the whole family.
Here's a joint statement on the deal, from Richard Plepler (HBO's Chairman/CEO) and Michael Lombardo (HBO President of Programming):
“We are absolutely thrilled to help secure the future of Sesame Street and Sesame Workshop’s mission for the nation’s kids and families. Home Box Office is committed to bringing the most groundbreaking and creative shows to its audience. Sesame Street is the most important preschool education program in the history of television. We are delighted to be a home for this extraordinary show, helping Sesame Street expand and build its franchise.”
Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of Sesame Street, which has been on air since 1969, said that it was important for the show to continue to move with the times. “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. In order to fund our nonprofit mission with a sustainable business model, Sesame Workshop must recognize these changes and adapt to the times.”
While this deal is undoubtedly a positive for both companies involved, it has divided viewers and fans of the show. Sesame Street is a beloved program, and has played a part of family life for generations. Many viewers have already taken to social media to express concern that moving the show to a premium cable channel excludes the less affluent families (who will now have to wait for the new episodes to air on PBS). Sesame Street was originally aimed at these less advantaged kids, not the privileged, suburban, middle class children whose parents have the means to pay for TV.
However, others argued back, saying that kids often watch an episode multiple times and enjoy it more with each viewing; others have pointed out that kids simply do not care when an episode was made or originally aired, they just care that it’s fun to watch. Either way, this deal creates yet another seismic shift in how we access our TV. It seems as though paid for channels is the way of the future, if anyone wants to have access to original content.
What do you make of this Sesame Street news?
Source: Sesame Workshop/HBO