August 17th, 2015
If you remember the old adage, â€œItâ€™s not TV, itâ€™s H-B-Oâ€ — folksÂ trot it out when they want to talk about how TV has grown more HBO-like over the last decade. But with todayâ€™s announcement that HBO is the new home of Sesame Street, the cable network is becoming a lot more TV-like.
It may be weirdÂ to imagine Big Bird feathering his nest on the same channel where other HBO characters beat strippers to death regularly, or behead children, but this isnâ€™t HBOâ€™s first foray into kid’sÂ TV. Itâ€™s so successfully branded itself as the home of sophisticated adult entertainment that itâ€™s easy to overlook the fact that it has a catalog of about 200 episodes of family programmingâ€”going all the way back to â€œFraggle Rock.â€ (Yup, that was HBO). But this does represent a milestone for HBO in another sense: It marks the first time it has acquired rights to an existing broadcast series, rather than developing its own from scratch.
From one angle, the decision to acquire Sesame Street was a no-brainer. There is a huge demand for family entertainment on streaming video services; Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, desperately needed a cash infusion; and it represented a chance for the network to associate with one of the most prestigious childrenâ€™s-entertainment brands in the world.
Michael Lombardo, HBOâ€™s president of programming, says this deal doesnâ€™t herald a broader campaign to snap up other existing series. â€œSesame Street is a rare and iconic childrenâ€™s series in the history of television,â€ he says. â€œI never say never but I canâ€™t think of any other show that we would be interested in bringing over from another network.â€1 Still, itâ€™s hard not to see this as a landmark moment in the television industry.
Streaming services to date have targeted passionate niche audiences. Weâ€™ve already seen Netflix reboot Arrested Development, or Hulu pick up the Mindy Projectâ€”cult hits that failed to attract a broadcast-sized following. HBO led this business model, positioning itself from the very beginning as a haven for cultural elitists whose refined tastes demanded uniquely sophisticated programming. But itâ€™s hard to get more mass-market than Sesame Street. It is arguably the most-watched, most important program in television history, one of the mediumâ€™s defining endeavors, a touchstone for millions of people around the world.
Sesame Street will still air on PBSâ€”after a nine-month delayâ€”so itâ€™s not as if the program is vanishing entirely behind a paywall. But todayâ€™s announcement is a harbinger. The streaming model wonâ€™t just be for re-runs and specialized content. Itâ€™s coming for all of us.
Categories: Channels & Shows