New episodes of “Sesame Street,” the iconic and beloved children’s television show, will start premiering on HBO this fall.
HBO hopes the deal will drive more subscriptions for its new Internet streaming service, HBO Now. Rival streaming services like Netlix and Amazon have prioritized kids programming.
“Sesame Street” will still be available for free via the public airwaves — but on a delayed basis. Episodes will become available to PBS stations nine months after they’re on HBO.
For that reason, this is a seminal moment — a mainstay of television is moving from the free airwaves to a paid model of media.
In essence HBO is providing a financial lifeline to Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that makes “Sesame Street.”
“Our new partnership with HBO represents a true winning public-private partnership model,” Jeffrey D. Dunn, the group’s CEO, said in a statement. “It provides Sesame Workshop with the critical funding it needs to be able to continue production of ‘Sesame Street’ and secure its nonprofit mission of helping kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.”
Sesame Workshop has lost millions of dollars in recent years amid sweeping changes in the media business.
Between 2013 and 2014, revenue from donations, distribution fees paid by PBS stations and licensing for merchandise sales all declined.
HBO, on the other hand, is flush with cash from monthly subscriptions and determined to diversify its library of shows. (HBO is owned by Time Warner like CNN.)
“What we’re looking to do is excite a wide cross-section of our audience,” HBO CEO Richard Plepler told CNNMoney in a recent interview.
Until now HBO has had some kid-friendly movies and a handful of shows. But now, with “Sesame,” it will be a formidable player in the space, giving families a reason to sign up for HBO Now.
HBO’s financial support will allow “Sesame Street” to produce “almost twice as much new content” as it has in recent years, Sesame Workshop said.
Along with the new episodes, the on-demand service will also have 150 archived episodes of “Sesame” and 50 episodes of two other Sesame Workshop franchises, “Pinky Dinky Doo” and “The Electric Company.”
Plepler said in a statement that the show is “delighted to be a home for this extraordinary show, helping ‘Sesame Street’ expand and build its franchise.”
Sesame Workshop also announced that it will produce a “Sesame Street” spinoff series and also develop new original “educational series for children.”