Sesame Street Will Soon be Brought to You by the Letters H, B, and O

Last week, I woke up singing “Imagine That,” by Ernie.  The other day, it was “The Ladybug’s Picnic.” Cookie Monster songs are always a favourite and I will never forget my aunt, who is deathly afraid of airplane flight, talking about how drinking brandy and singing “Me Lost Me Cookie at the Disco” got her through a trip to Canada. I grew up with Sesame Street and sometimes (like right now, for example), you can catch me humming the jazz version of the theme song. My kids did not watch Sesame Street as religiously as I did, since, by the time they were watching TV, Dora the Explorer and The Backyardigans were the reigning champions. Still, they are quite familiar with its many residents and my seven year old still visits the website to play games now and then.

With almost 5,000 episodes aired since 1969, it’s hard to believe that anyone wouldn’t know about Sesame Street. But, with dwindling revenues coming in from the non-profit organization, Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Television Workshop), the series has been forced to seek new ways to continue bringing its educational retinue to children of all ages. Enter HBO for the save.

“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.” — Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of Sesame Street

For HBO, the benefits are obvious as they strive to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon and establish themselves outside of cable and satellite providers. The problem is that accessing HBO seems to be a little more restrictive than the other streaming services. As a Canadian, I have no access to HBO’s online offerings. Should I wish to subscribe to HBO through my cable company, I’m required to pay for the full movie package. For viewers to access HBO, there is, of course, the cost, at roughly $15 per month. Of course, there would still be a subscription fee had Netflix or Amazon been the ones to score this five-year deal. Having to pay to view Sesame Street at all does not seem conducive to the show’s continued focus on bringing educational programming to low-income families.

Still, with this deal PBS will continue to air older episodes of Sesame Street, and the new episodes aired exclusively on HBO will come to PBS nine months later. HBO will also acquire rights to two new spin offs, as well as classic episodes and Pinky Dinky Doo and The Electric Company.

In other words, Sesame Street in the hands of HBO means that the series will continue with its commitment to well-researched and diverse educational programming instead of becoming just a fond memory. A world without Sesame Street? I refuse to imagine that.

  1. Wendy W

    August 14, 2015 at 9:45 am

    I’m rather sad about this. I’ve noticed the “sponsors” slots have become more like ads over the years, even though PBS is allegedly commercial-free, and I’ve accepted that because revenue is scarce for public television, and they have to do what they can. In 4th grade, I was Oscar the Grouch for Hallowe’en, wearing a costume my mother made me (my little brother was Cookie Monster), and I won “Most Representative” in the school costume contest — I still have both the ribbon and the costume, and Oscar is still my favorite.

    Is HBO the best option for Sesame Street? Premium cable, when the whole point of Sesame Street was to reach those disadvantaged kids and give them a boost? Where will this leave them? Isn’t this where some superhero philanthropist swoops in to save Sesame Street? Rats…

    1. Wendy Browne

      August 14, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Normally I’m quite up in arms about a big corporation taking on something like this, but … Sesame Street is just too important to let die. I wish some wonderful anonymous hero would swoop in as you say, but I have to believe that Sesame Workshop has the best interest of the show at heart and the heart and soul of it will continue, even if the capitalism sneaks in here and there to help keep it afloat.

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