How do you get to Sesame Street? Through Selina Myer’s presidential motorcade, over John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight desk, and then a right at King’s Landing.
The beloved children’s show, which premiered on Nov. 10, 1969, will move to HBO starting this fall after a deal was struck between Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the show, and the premium cable network.
Sesame Street has aired on PBS for the past 45 years. And while many may be shocked by last Thursday’s announcement, College of Arts, Media and Design lecturer Tim Ouillette says he really isn’t surprised.
A multi-million dollar organization
“Sesame Workshop has generated millions of dollars in revenue for years now,” Ouillette noted. “They are a huge business and this move is going to allow them to increase production.”
While Sesame Street was launched as a free and public educational show geared toward low-income children, it has since grown into a business that generates revenue from merchandise, books, and international expansion.
“I think people are shocked because they were under the illusion Sesame Street had no commercial intentions and that is just not the case anymore,” Ouillette said. “It’s not some mom-and-pop operation.”
Supremacy in online streaming
As part of the deal, new episodes of Sesame Street will be available on HBO and its streaming outlets beginning this fall. After a nine-month embargo, those episodes will re-air on PBS. Sesame Workshop will be able to increase the number of episodes it produces a year from 18 to 35.
Ouillette added this new partnership is also a huge win for HBO, which is working to establish its supremacy in online streaming.
“A key to that supremacy is children marketing,” Ouillette said. “More and more kids are discovering Sesame Street through on-demand platforms and I think this move is solely to bolster their streaming service.”
Future of Sesame Street programming
The mission of Sesame Street since its premiere has been to promote preschool programming, and Ouillette said he does not see that changing in the immediate future with the move to HBO.
But once it establishes itself as part of HBO’s streaming service, Ouillette noted subscribers could possibly influence the show’s content.
“I really see this as a move to compete against Amazon Prime and Netflix,” he said. “I don’t think that HBO is necessarily picking up Sesame Street out of the kindness of their heart or because they want to help educate children of lower socioeconomic status. At some point, HBO Go subscribers will influence the content of Sesame Street, I am just not sure if it would be good or bad for the educational content.”