Sesame Street Is On the Move — to HBO

Big Bird and friends are ditching their longtime PBS neighborhood to move to HBO this fall, and a lot of people aren’t happy about the change.

“Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?”

Since the iconic children’s television show first aired in 1969, the answer to that question was the same: “Sesame Street” is on PBS, America’s public television provider. But that’s no longer the case.

Beginning this fall, Big Bird, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch, and the rest of the “Sesame Street” neighbors, will be on premium cable network HBO, The New York Times reports.

Sesame Workshop recently inked a five-year deal with HBO to air new episodes of the beloved children’s show exclusively on the premium network and its streaming outlets. The Times said:

The partnership, announced Thursday, will allow the financially challenged Sesame Workshop to significantly increase its production of “Sesame Street” episodes and other new programming. The group will produce 35 new “Sesame Street” episodes a year, up from the 18 it now produces. It will also create a spinoff series based on the “Sesame Street” Muppets along with another new educational series for children.

Nine months after the new episodes air on HBO, they’ll be available for free on PBS. Past “Sesame Street” seasons and archived episodes will continue to be available on PBS as well.

Not surprisingly, many people — including myself — are not happy to see the children’s program moved from public broadcasting to a subscription-only service.

Sure, it’s doubtful that the majority of the show’s most loyal viewers, preschoolers, will even notice the change. I know my kids could watch the same episode of “Sesame Street” 20 times in a row without complaint, so they are unlikely to care if the “new” “Sesame Street” show they watch on PBS is actually nine months old.

Though the monetary reasons for the move make sense, it’s the principle of the matter that’s frustrating to many Americans, Fortune reports.

That [nine month] time delay still rankles for many, however, because it means that a program which was specifically designed to help educate poor children will be unavailable to those children, until after it has already been watched by children of more wealthy families who can afford HBO subscriptions. “I get why Sesame Street did the HBO deal, but it makes me sad we’re privatizing a national treasure originally aimed at educating poor kids,” said comedian Brian Gaar on Twitter.

MIT researcher Chris Peterson described the deal as “damaging one of the last few truly good things in the world.”

For what it’s worth, if “Sesame Street” didn’t make the move to HBO, it’s likely the show would have been forced to end production.

“The losses just kept getting bigger,” said Sesame Workshop CEO Jeff Dunn. “It was like, ‘If we don’t find another way to replace this revenue stream, then we either have to shut the show down or…'”

In many ways, moving “Sesame Street” from public broadcasting to a subscription-only service is a visible representation of the turmoil and transformation that are occurring in the television world, as media sources compete in the increasingly cutthroat on-demand market.

Dunn told the Times that the new partnership with HBO means “Sesame Street” episodes will no longer be available on Amazon and Netflix.

Curses! Although I DVR new episodes of “Sesame Street” on PBS, my kids typically end up watching reruns of the show on Amazon and Netflix.

What do you think of “Sesame Street” moving to HBO? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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