HBO, 'Sesame Street' Enter Five-Year Deal

New episodes will begin airing in the fall, while HBO also will produce a "Sesame Street Muppet" spinoff series.

HBO is partnering with Sesame Street to offer the next five seasons of the iconic children’s classic on the premium network’s platforms. New episodes of Sesame Street will begin airing in late fall on HBO’s linear and on-demand channels as well as HBO Go and SVOD service HBO Now.

The deal, announced Thursday, also includes a spinoff Sesame Street Muppet series, produced by HBO, as well as additional original educational series. The premium service also has licensed over 150 library hours of the show.

The series will also stay on PBS. HBO will be the exclusive, first-run subscription television distribution partner for Sesame Street and the new series, and will have the right to air both series in English and Spanish. Any new series produced by HBO also will be made available to PBS and its member stations after a nine-month window. 

Studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that young viewers are platform agnostic, making kids' programming increasingly important in a multiplatform media universe. At the same time, partnerships are key for public broadcasting, which has limited resources but still co-produces and airs the vast majority of children's educational programming on TV. Sesame Workshop had been looking for a partner for some time. HBO has dabbled in kids' programming — the Classical Baby series was particularly popular — but has not made a significant investment in the space for some time, certainly not since kids' programming has proved so popular on streaming services. So when Sesame Workshop approached HBO, the deal came together very quickly, say sources.

The pact means that Sesame Workshop will be able to produce almost twice as much new content as previous seasons, with that programming available free to PBS and its member stations. At the same time, HBO immediately gets a rich library of programming: 150 hours of Sesame Street, approximately 50 past episodes of Pinky Dinky Doo, an animated series for preschoolers that focuses on early literacy, and The Electric Company, which was rebooted in 2009, from Sesame Workshop.

“Our new partnership with HBO represents a true winning public-private partnership model,” Sesame Workshop CEO Jeffrey D. Dunn 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.”

Added HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler and HBO programming president Michael Lombardo: “We are absolutely thrilled to help secure the future of Sesame Street and Sesame Workshop’s mission for the nation’s kids and families. Home Box Office is committed to bringing the most groundbreaking and creative shows to its audience. Sesame Street is the most important preschool education program in the history of television. We are delighted to be a home for this extraordinary show, helping Sesame Street expand and build its franchise.”

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