Commentary

Why 'Sesame Street' Went To HBO

I can’t help thinking back to those reports in the fall 2011 of how Netflix kids’ programming -- reruns from likes of Viacom’s Nickelodeon -- might have cannibalized some  traditional kids’ networks.

Now, we have a major kids TV brand, “Sesame Street,” moving, in part, from the public TV airwaves to HBO, a premium cable TV network. Does this mean parents have figured out pay TV services for kids aren’t t so bad?

Many TV analysts went to great lengths to talk -- tongues in cheeks -- about how the gang at Sesame Street would now be airing alongside the unsavory characters from “True Detective,” “The Sopranos” and “The Wire.”

Truth is, HBO/Cinemax has about a dozen individual channels -- one specifically called HBO Family.  Maybe Sesame Street will be “Girls” -adjacent, we are guessing.

In some ways, having no advertising on kids TV is exactly what parents are looking for. Content seems to be much “safer” than on regular ad-supported cable. Cable networks have known this for some time. Viacom’s youngest-skewing network Nick Jr., has no commercial advertising. Likewise, Disney Channel hasn’t had any TV commercials throughout his history-- though it does have some limited TV sponsorship arrangements.

In part, the producers of the PBS-kids show also say there was a growing issue over rising production costs that PBS couldn’t sustain but that HBO, one of the preeminent cable TV networks groups, could.

Still, “Sesame Street” isn’t abandoning its roots. After its original run on HBO, episodes will get a second run on PBS nine months later. Good news in this regard: “Sesame Street” will now have a 35-episode season, almost double its previous 18 episodes a year.

Worried about interference from HBO? Don’t think that’ll be much of a problem. HBO does have a tradition, perhaps to a fault, that allows its producers to pretty much have creative freedom -- much more than other network. That said, don’t expect the same viewing levels that a “Game of Thrones” gets.

But, if you’re fretting about rising television costs a family has to endure to keep its children entertained, or how for-profit TV companies continue to grow in power, or about the future of public arts funding -- then, for sure, start worrying.

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