HBO To Air Exclusive New Episodes Of 'Sesame Street'
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
"Sesame Street" has found a new home, HBO. Under a five-year deal, new episodes will get their first run on the pay cable channel. As NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reports, the deal gives "Sesame Street" a fresh lease on life.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: "Sesame Street" has almost anticipated this. Among the skits it's done with a lesson for kids and a wink for parents are parodies of HBO hits "True Blood," "Boardwalk Empire," or, in this case, "Game Of Thrones."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SESAME STREET")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Gesteros (ph) needs a new king or queen. And to decide, we will play a game, a game of chairs.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) Hazzah.
FOLKENFLIK: Jeffrey Dunn is president and CEO of Sesame Workshop, the show's parent company. Dunn said PBS and the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting simply couldn't offer enough extra money to keep the show on the air.
JEFFREY DUNN: Without adapting to the environment in which we live, we would not be able to go forward with "Sesame Street." And it would fade away.
FOLKENFLIK: The educational show has been a mainstay for PBS for 45 years. Some studies suggest it has an enduring effect on the literacy and intellectual engagement of children who watch it, especially as a kind of video preschool for many disadvantaged kids. Dunn says PBS now pays less than 10 percent of the $25 million annual cost of producing "Sesame Street." As children increasingly watch "Sesame Street" in shorter chunks on apps and on demand, sales of the DVDs which helped to subsidize production costs have plummeted. And licensing fees from digital streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and foreign broadcasters have not filled the gap. HBO will, and Dunn says HBO's money will also subsidize the production of a second, new educational children's show from Sesame and even to pilot a third. But - and this is important - "Sesame Street" will still be part of the public broadcasting landscape. Again, Jeffrey Dunn.
DUNN: And we think it's actually a really great day, in many ways, for PBS.
FOLKENFLIK: PBS itself has stayed pretty quiet. New episodes will be available only on HBO and the channel's streaming services for nine months, when they will be shared with PBS's station and digital app for kids at no cost to stations or to viewers. And PBS viewers can see the earlier shows just as before. The deal does mean, however, that "Sesame Street" programs will be pulled from Netflix and from Amazon. One more lesson here, the channels producing original content are becoming streaming services, and the digital services are producing original content. Everybody's getting into the act. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.
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