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Sesame Street Joins Forces with HBO: What About PBS?

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by PatrickAugust 16, 2015

When someone asks if you can tell them how to get to Sesame Street, you’ll soon be able to answer, “HBO.”

Sesame Street, which begins its 46th season this fall, announced a partnership with HBO that will allow it to produce more episodes for the premium cable channel.

But what about PBS, where the program has called home since its premiere on November 10, 1969 — 13 days before I was born?

Well, PBS will still have the show, too, it turns out. New episodes will debut on HBO, then move to PBS nine months later. It means PBS will have more new episodes than it has in the past few years.

And that brings me to the biggest surprise I came across about this whole deal.

When I was a kid, I watched Sesame Street like most other kids in the 1970s. Back then, though there were certainly classic bits that I saw repeated, I always had the sense that there was mostly new material I was seeing. Chalk this up to the fact that the show used to produce 130 episodes per year

That would equal 26 weeks’ worth of new shows — exactly half a year — to mix with reruns for its annual run. As new seasons came and went, the library of shows, naturally, grew, so there were more episodes they could run from their vault (assuming they reran past seasons at all).

This practice of 130 episodes per year continued through season 29, at which point a total of 3,370 shows should have been produced.

But then starting with the 30th season, the number of shows dropped to half of its previous output: just 65 episodes, 13 weeks of new shows.

The 33rd season turned out only 50 new shows. Then, starting the following season, just 26. Since season 41, the number of new episodes has varied, from 26 up to 44.

This season, apparently, they’d have produced only 18, but now that HBO is in the mix, it will nearly double that number, up to 35.

The Sesame Workshop — which we all grew up hearing called The Children’s Television Workshop — has faced drops in revenues over the years, the New York Times reports, and this deal will help the struggling organization keep the show going.

But people on social media didn’t hesitate — they never do, after all — to start complaining, suggesting putting the program first on a premium channel “created the perception of an economic class divide, with Sesame favoring privileged children and jettisoning its commitment to less-advantaged ones.”

Because of a nine-month delay that enables to show to stay on the air?

Come on, folks, I think we’re reaching a bit here when looking for something to complain about.

I have to wonder how much money the complainers themselves are donating to Sesame (or their PBS affiliate) to keep things going. Producing television programs — particularly quality programs — has never been cheap. Anything that keeps educational programs for kids on the air, even if it means delaying how soon everyone gets to see them, might just be preferable to letting the show die altogether.

I wonder what the complainers think would be a better idea.

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Patrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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