Sesame Street is going from a public thoroughfare to a toll road, so to speak. The show has entered a 5-year deal with HBO to provide funding in return for a 9-month period of exclusivity on new episodes. The episodes will air free on PBS after that period ends. This begins with the new season’s premiere exclusively on HBO (and HBO streaming media) this fall.
Jeffrey D. Dunn, CEO of Sesame Workshop, said in a statement that the partnership with HBO provides the group 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.”
This doesn’t have a lot to do with e-books directly, but given how important a part of children’s early education Sesame Street is, it’s eye-opening. But public television funding has been dwindling, and broadcast television such as PBS has become less important to modern consumers in this era of so many different media choices.
At least this HBO deal will let the show continue to be produced, even if it takes longer for the new episodes to get to PBS. Nonetheless, they still have 45 years of older episodes to show, and kids of that age don’t care so much if they’re watching something a few years old.
It also puts me in mind of another PBS early-education TV show that took another route to funding—LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow, which Burton bought the rights to reimagine as a mobile app, then launched a highly-successful Kickstarter to support. As of May, 2015, Reading Rainbow had launched a new “Skybrary” digital library service from which subscribers can view episodes and read from a curated list of books.
Whatever the means by which they survive, it’s nonetheless great to see that these old favorites live on in a new-technology world.