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‘Sesame Street’ to Air First on HBO for Next 5 Seasons

The letters of the day on “Sesame Street” are H, B and O.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit group behind the children’s television program, has struck a deal with HBO, the premium cable network, that will bring the next five seasons of “Sesame Street” to HBO and its streaming outlets starting this fall.

The partnership will allow 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 produces now. Sesame Workshop also will create a spinoff series based on the “Sesame Street” Muppets and another new educational series for children.

After nine months of programming exclusively on HBO, the shows also will be available free on PBS, its home for the last 45 years. “Sesame Street” will also continue its run on PBS this fall, with the season featuring a selection of episodes from the last several seasons edited in new ways.

“Sesame Workshop’s new partnership does not change the fundamental role PBS and stations play in the lives of families,” Anne Bentley, a PBS spokeswoman, said in a statement, noting that PBS stations reach more children ages 2 to 5, more mothers of children under 6 and more low-income children than any children’s TV network, according to Nielsen.


Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sesame’s partnership with HBO comes at a critical time for the children’s television group. Historically, less than 10 percent of the funding for “Sesame Street” episodes came from PBS, with the rest financed through licensing revenue, such as DVD sales. Sesame’s business has struggled in recent years because of the rapid rise of streaming and on-demand viewing and the sharp decline in licensing income. About two-thirds of children now watch “Sesame Street” on demand and do not tune in to PBS to watch the show.

PBS was not able to make up the difference, so Sesame was forced to cut back on the number of episodes it produced and the creation of other new material.

Jeffrey D. Dunn, chief executive of Sesame Workshop, said that the partnership with HBO would allow the group to continue to produce “Sesame Street” and to further its mission to help educate children.

“The partnership is really a great thing for kids,” Mr. Dunn said. “We’re getting revenues we otherwise would not have gotten, and with this we can do even more content for kids.”

For HBO, the partnership provides the network with prestigious and popular television programming for both its traditional television network and its new stand-alone streaming service HBO Now, which is aimed at people who do not have or do not want cable TV subscriptions. In addition to the new series, HBO licensed more than 150 library episodes of “Sesame Street.” It also licensed about 50 past episodes of “Pinky Dinky Doo” and “The Electric Company” from Sesame Workshop.

“We were instantly thrilled for the opportunity to bring an iconic series like ‘Sesame Street’ to HBO,” said Richard Plepler, chief executive of HBO. “‘Sesame Street’ stands for excellence and quality in children’s programming, and we stand for excellence and quality in all programming. If we are going to lean into that and start to do more, we want to associate ourselves with a brand that is consummate to ourselves.”

Children’s programming is a popular category for streaming services, with the outlets recognizing that they can entice parents to subscribe if they capture their children’s attention. The Sesame-PBS deal comes as Amazon, Netflix and other online outlets are pouring resources into acquiring and developing their own original children’s series. The “Sesame Street” episodes now available on Amazon and Netflix will no longer be on those outlets because of the HBO deal.

Michael Lombardo, president of HBO programming, said that family programming is important in the streaming world and that HBO had been exploring the category when the Sesame deal presented itself.

“It’s the perfect partnership for us to lean into, and we did,” he said.

‘Sesame Street’ to Air First on HBO for Next 5 Seasons