Published on: August 14, 2015by Kevin Coupe
Children looking to make their way to Sesame Street this fall now will find first-run episodes of the iconic 45-year-old program on HBO, rather than on Public Television, where it has been since its inception.
A new agreement announced yesterday says that PBS will get to run the episodes first seen on HBO nine months later, but that PBS will not have to pay the $11 million licensing fee that its has recently paid to screen "Sesame Street." Rather, the HBO involvement will allow nonprofit Sesame Workshop to increase to 35 the number of new episodes that it produces each year; it currently makes 18.
Specifics of the financial deal between Sesame Workshop and HBO were not disclosed.
The New York Times offers the lesson that transcends the basics of the production and licensing deal: "It is an unexpected union: the nonprofit behind a TV show created to teach children in underserved communities matched with the premium cable network that targets affluent adults with innovative programming. But the deal speaks to the digital transformation upending the television business, primarily the explosion of streaming video creating a generation of children who watch shows on demand, often on a mobile phone or tablet, instead of flipping on a TV." And the move also underlines another important consideration - the need to sometimes create new alliances and seek new outlets even for traditional products, simply because the old ways have become untenable and to do otherwise is to risk irrelevance.
Of course, there are naysayers: "“Kids are getting squeezed in the middle,” Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, tells the Times. “In order to watch original episodes of the most iconic children’s program in television history, parents are now forced to fork over about $180 per year and subscribe to the most sexually explicit, most graphically violent television network in America. I can’t imagine a greater juxtaposition in television than this.”
Winter has a point. It is hard to imagine "Sesame Street" sharing a network with the likes of "Cathouse" and "Real Sex." But one has to imagine that HBO will be careful not to tarnish the brand that it is spending so much to associate itself with.
Regardless, the deal is an Eye-Opener - reflecting a greater reality about broader shifts in consumption habits that affect every business and every consumer.
- KC's View: