Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sesame Street on HBO

Today the Sesame Workshop announced that it had entered into a five-year partnership with HBO. And the internet wasted no time at all spreading the nonsense that "only rich kids with HBO will be able to watch Sesame Street!" Because the internet loves a good bandwagon about as much as it despises being patient and reading actual information beyond a headline.

This partnership is actually a good thing for Sesame Street and for PBS.

What this means is that the next five seasons will be available on HBO, HBO GO, HBO On Demand, even HBO NOW. They'll air there first, and after nine months, they'll air on PBS. Which is fine, because it's not like PBS was going to stop airing old episodes in the first place. They'll just keep airing reruns, like they already do, and then they'll slot the new episodes in after nine months.

Here's something a lot of the people with instant knee-jerk reactions might not realize: Sesame Street airs just 26 or 27 new episodes every year. That's a little over five weeks of content. That's it. And Sesame Street airs every weekday, twice a day. But so little of it is new. When the show started in 1969, it did 130 episodes in its first season. The second season, it did 145. From there, the show did 130 episodes a season, every season, until 1998. After that, they only did 65. And since then, it's been slowly whittled down to about 26 or 27 episodes a year. That's it. So most of the year they air reruns twice a day--one episode in the morning (at least in my market), and an edited-down, half-hour version of the same episode in the afternoon. And that edited-down episode is a little... lighter on educational content and heavier on somewhat educational media parodies with number jokes.

Here's another interesting wrinkle: earlier this morning, it was announced that from now on Sesame Street was only going to air a 30-minute version. The hour-long episode won't be produced anymore, mostly because it will allow PBS to remain competitive with other children's programming outlets. What it boils down to is that the half-hour episodes perform better on digital platforms.

So, this is pretty much good news all over. With HBO paying for the show, Sesame Street is going to be able to do more episodes this season (35), and they're going to make more episodes available on their streaming services. Not only that, but when they go to PBS, PBS (for the first time ever) won't have to pay for them, because HBO already has. One of the key points of the deal is that PBS still gets to air the show, as they have for the last 45 years. This is a great business model, because it actually acknowledges that the way children consume their entertainment has changed and it gives Sesame Workshop the ability to adapt to it.

Not only that, but Sesame Workshop will also be able to produce other series for children, including at least one Muppets program.

So that's good news for Sesame Street, its viewers, for educational programming in general, and for public television.

And for Muppet fans.

Please stop your unnecessary outrage panic.


Tallulah Morehead said...

I've heard it's so they can learn to spell dirty words, and have explicit nudity and muppet sex. It will become Sesame Street of Thrones.

Keir said...

For some reason I can't open this site via Firefox; it just seems to load interminably. Is it just me?

Roger Owen Green said...

Heck, we'll probably get Muppet sex on the ABC show, at 8 p.m., no less ...