Last Thursday, HBO announced a five-year partnership with Sesame Workshop that will make new Sesame Street episodes available first on the network and available free of charge on PBS following a nine-month window.
The news was surprising and was met with quite a bit of sarcasm on Twitter, however, the partnership was much-needed for HBO, a company that is as ambitious as ever. Below, three reasons why HBO is heading to Sesame Street.
1) Parents have budget now. Children have budget later
HBO has been largely devoid of children’s programming until now, because it hasn’t needed children’s programming. However, with more competition and the state of the cable industry in flux, appealing to children at an early age is to appeal to them at the start of their consumer journey. In late June, we interviewed Tara Sorensen, Head of Kids Programming, Amazon Studios, and at the time we wrote:
Perhaps more important in the over-the-top and streaming battle than critically acclaimed adult-geared originals is children’s content. As Disney’s and Nickelodeon’s grip on the market loosens, and as children turn to content on different devices and different platforms, there is a tremendous opportunity for the Amazons, Hulus, and Maker Studios of the world to capture the attention of children and parents alike. And, as Amazon may understand better than any company, the consumer journey begins early.
The same holds true for HBO.
2) Tablets for toddlers
As a burgeoning anthropologist (not really, though) I see it every day: young, young children are more and more occupied with their parents’ phones and tablets. Young children areless frequently placed in front of TV sets showing PBS or Nick Jr; instead, they are handed phones and tablets with programming from YouTube, Amazon, and other apps. HBO NOW “now” has a place in the hands of young children and HBO will almost certainly continue to provide more programming options for younger demos.
3) HBO no longer gets the right of first refusal
Presitge programming used to be synonymous with HBO. In fact, HBO has been so selective that it once passed on both “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men.” Fast-forward and HBO is now competing with AMC, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Sundance, and essentially every other network for top quality content. Showrunners no longer feel the need to give HBO first dibs at their shows; conversely, HBO simply needs quantity in ways it hasn’t before. With its attempt to make HBO NOW a standalone service with programming separate from the main network (see: recent deals with Vice and Bill Simmons), HBO is trying to greatly increase its volume of programming while also maintaining its prestige status. Sesame Street is a low-cost, easy way to do this.