Monday, August 17, 2015

CHILDREN'S TV - Sesame Street, HBO

It's all about money.

"Does Sesame Street’s new address change its mission?" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2015


SUMMARY:  Sesame Street, the beloved children's television series and PBS staple since 1969, will have a new address coming this fall.  A five-year partnership with HBO means episodes will air first on the premium pay cable channel before appearing on public television nine months later.  Judy Woodruff discusses the changes with Gary Knell, former CEO of Sesame Workshop.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Finally, big changes at “Sesame Street.”

Yesterday, the long-running PBS children’s television series announced a new five-year partnership with HBO starting this fall.  New episodes of the show, a PBS staple since it premiered in 1969, will appear first on the premium pay cable channel.  Then it will air for free on their traditional public television home nine months later.

To help us explore what led to this change, and what it means, we turn to Gary Knell.  He was CEO of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit group behind the show, from 2000 until 2011.  Then he was head of NPR, before moving to his current job as president of the National Geographic Society.

Gary Knell, great to have you with us.

GARY KNELL, Former CEO, Sesame Workshop:  Thanks for having me back.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, tell us, what was behind this?  Now that we have a day to digest the news, what do we attribute this to?  What were the forces at work?

GARY KNELL:  Well, I think you have got to look at this three ways, Judy.

For HBO, this is about streaming.  They’re competing with Netflix, and for them — and Amazon Prime — and this is a way of getting a number-one quality brand onto their streaming platforms.

For “Sesame Street”, this filled an economic gap.  And their economic model for many years has really been filled by home video and toys and books and other things that they were able to monetize off the brand to pay for the production in a lot of ways from — for PBS.  And this is a way of plugging that gap and giving them running room.

And I think, for PBS, it’s a little bit of an admission that maybe they’re a little bigger than “Sesame Street.”  They have 19 preschool and kids shows on PBS.  And PBS KIDS has become a robust network that is bigger than “Sesame Street” now.  It includes “Sesame Street.”  That’s an important component, but it’s bigger than.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But why HBO?  We think of this as a — frankly, a channel that appeals to adults.  It’s a premium pay cable thing.  It’s something people are going to have to pay for.  Why — couldn’t it work at PBS?

GARY KNELL:  Well, it could, but I think, for HBO, this is quite a brilliant move, I think, to go after millennial audiences and young parents who grew up with “Sesame Street.”

(like I said, it's all about the money, for HBO)

And, again, they’re in a fight to the death now, not so much about their cable channel, so to speak, but it’s much more about streaming.  It’s this a la carte world, where we’re now competing against every piece of content ever invented, from a cat video to “Gone With the Wind,” every night, and unless you have great a la carte programs, you’re going to be in a competitive disadvantage to the Netflixes and the Amazon Primes of the world.

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