Iconic children's television series Sesame Street is on the move, heading to subscription-TV network HBO, in a first-of-its-kind deal.
Sesame Street and HBO have inked a five-year partnership, calling for all new episodes of the long-running series to first air on HBO and its multiple channels. After a nine-month window, those episodes will then be made available to PBS, which has been Sesame Street's home for the last 45 years.
"Over the past decade, both the way in which children are consuming video and the economics of the children's television production business have changed dramatically," said Joan Ganz Cooney, who conceived the program in 1966. "In order to fund our nonprofit mission with a sustainable business model, Sesame Workshop must recognize these changes and adapt to the times."
As part of the deal, HBO said it will produce "twice as much new content." Once again, after the nine-month window elapses, PBS and its member stations will televise such Sesame Street episodes for free.
"We are absolutely thrilled to help secure the future of Sesame Street and Sesame Workshop's mission for the nation's kids and families," said Richard Plepler, chairman and CEO of HBO.
While Sesame Street has been a staple of PBS daytime programming, the public broadcaster has increasingly been focused on its primetime slots. With the success of series like Downton Abbey and Poldark, the network claimed a 1.51 household rating for the 2014-2015 season, making it the sixth most-watched broadcast or cable network. PBS is also pinning its hopes on a period drama called Mercy Street that's coming in early 2016.
"Sesame Street will continue uninterrupted on PBS stations," says PBS vp of comms Anne Bentley, adding the show, "has always featured a mix of existing and new content in each episode. This will continue to be the case."
While that's the company line, member station WNET in New York had some fun at HBO's expense: