HBO Max will be the new SVOD home of Sesame Street, which will be relocating from HBO and its on-demand platforms HBO Now/Go. WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming platform has closed an expansive five-year deal with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit media and educational organization behind the iconic children program. It includes five new 35-episode seasons of Sesame Street, four new live-action and animated series, including an Elmo-hosted talk show and an animated Sesame Street spinoff, annual specials, as well as the show’s 50-year library which includes more than 4,500 episodes.
The deal will commence with Sesame Street‘s 51st season in 2020. It will succeed the current five-year pact Sesame Workshop inked with HBO in 2015, which comes to an end with the upcoming Season 50 of Sesame Street. The series’ library will be available on HBO Max at the platform’s launch in April 2020, followed by Season 51 a little later in the year.
This is the first time the entire Sesame Street library has been made available. It hasn’t been determined exactly how many episodes will be accessible on HBO Max at any given time but the streamer and the Sesame Workshop are expected to work together on curating selections from the pool of 4,500+ episodes.
For comparison, as part of its 2015 Sesame Workshop pact, HBO licensed over 150 library episodes of Sesame Street. The number will reach 329 episodes by the end of the deal with the addition of the five new seasons produced for HBO. After Season 50 wraps its run on HBO, all Sesame Street episodes will migrate to HBO Max, joined by the rest of the series’ expansive library.
Like with the HBO agreement, Sesame Street will premiere on HBO Max and then continue to air for free on PBS Kids, with newly commissioned HBO Max content also made available to PBS Kids after debuting on HBO Max. No terms were revealed but I hear HBO Max’s exclusivity period is in the ballpark of the nine-month window new Sesame Street episodes had on HBO before made available free of charge to PBS and its member stations, with both sides remaining flexible.
Here is a list of the new Sesame Street content included in the HBO Max deal:
Five new 35-episode seasons of Sesame Street
- New annual Sesame Street specials, kicking off with The Monster at the End of This Show, an animated version of the acclaimed The Monster at the End of this Book
- A family-centric live-action take on a late-night talk show, The Not Too Late Show with Elmo—featuring Sesame Street’s celebrity friends
- A new season of the award-winning animated Esme & Roy, as well as the previous season, which was produced for HBO
- Two new animated series, the first a spinoff of Sesame Street called Mecha Builders (working title), featuring favorite Sesame Street characters as heroes in a robot-animation style; and the second series to be announced at a later date
- A new docuseries that will explore key issues for kids and families, building off Sesame Workshop’s expertise in tackling difficult issues from a child’s perspective
Sesame Workshop’s HBO deal also included a provision for a Sesame Street Muppet spinoff series as well as the development of a new original educational series for children. It yielded the animated series Esme & Roy, which aired one season in summer 2018.
HBO Max will create a Sesame Street hub for all-things-Sesame on demand. It will feature character-driven short-form collections, a broad collection of Sesame Street episodes from the past 50 years – many available to the public on-demand for the first time ever, as well as the British Sesame Street spinoff, The Furchester Hotel, which until recently aired in the US on Sprout.
“Sesame Street is, and always has been, the gold standard for children’s programming, and we’re thrilled that Sesame Workshop chose HBO Max as its new partner,” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer. “This brand is synonymous with quality and integrity, not to mention that nothing is more important than educating young new minds. This landmark deal perfectly illustrates the type of quality programming HBO Max will offer across every demographic.”
When Kevin Reilly, Chief Content Officer, HBO Max, and President, TBS, TNT, and truTV, revealed first content details about the upcoming WarnerMedia streamer in February, he made the distinction between HBO, which will be included in the HBO Max package, focusing on premium adult fare, and the rest of HBO Max, which will offer a broad slate of programming for kids and families, teens, young adults as well as adults. It became clear right away that Sesame Street would eventually migrate from HBO to HBO Max where WarnerMedia’s SVOD children’s programming will be housed.
“The scope of our partnership with Sesame Workshop is unprecedented,” Reilly said today. “The beloved Sesame Street characters and these incredible new shows will be ambassadors for our service and the cornerstone of HBO Max’s extensive kids’ offering.”
Sesame Street is the longest-running kids’ program in television history. For Sesame Workshop, the HBO deal was a lifeline to be able to continue to make the show as it relieved the financial pressure from seeing revenues from DVD sales dry up, proceeds from merchandising taper off as kids move away from traditional to video games, and the license fee paid by PBS only accounting for a fraction of the Sesame Street production cost. Last year, Sesame Workshop also linked a deal with Apple for multiple new series not related to Sesame Street.
“As we celebrate 50 years of Sesame Street and look to the future, we are thrilled to enter into this powerful partnership with HBO Max and their growing offering of best-in-class content,” said Steve Youngwood, Sesame Workshop’s President of Media and Education and Chief Operating Officer. “Producing this broad slate will help us deliver on our mission to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. We are also excited about partnering with WarnerMedia and AT&T as we seek ways to expand Sesame Workshop’s impact around the world.”
The initial partnership is domestic only; Sesame Workshop and WarnerMedia will explore expanding globally as HBO Max grows. In addition, the two organizations will look for ways to expand the reach of Sesame Workshop’s social impact content as well as developing and distributing interactive educational experiences.