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Sesame Street is leaving for cable
The "Sesame Street" gang - photo by Omar Etman
The Sesame Street gang is headed to HBO, and some are concerned that the move to premium cable and a channel where programming isn't always kid-friendly does not align with the show's spirit of inclusion.

The childrens television program, which currently airs on PBS, has struck a five-year deal with the premium cable network, according to Thursday's press release. All new episodes, which premiere this fall, will run on PBS nine months after airing on HBO.

Our new partnership with HBO represents a true winning public-private partnership model, said Jeffrey D. Dunn, CEO of Sesame Workshop, the company behind the program. It provides Sesame Workshop with the critical funding it needs to be able to continue production of Sesame Street and secure its nonprofit mission of helping kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

Sesame Street has been on PBS, a public TV network, since its inception in 1969. Since then, the show has gone on to produce content that, according to Vox, invented childrens programming as we understand it. Filled with beautifully realized, well-developed characters who could speak to kids at their level, Sesame Street resonates with children across the country.

Researchers have confirmed the positive effects of Sesame Street. A paper published in June found that kids can learn as much from Sesame Street as they can from preschool. The effects were especially profound on children from disadvantaged areas.

Critics of the HBO-Sesame Workshop plan worry that it violates the shows founding principles. Sesame Street was created to teach as many children as possible basic math and language. Now, with the show moving to an expensive cable channel, perceived as a luxury good by many parents, its losing its mass-market appeal and accessibility.

Some are also uneasy about the content that will air alongside Sesame Street. The Parents Television Council, a media watchdog group critical of racy content, said HBO, known for blood-filled shows like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, should offer the new episodes for free.

Many families have eschewed premium cable networks like HBO, Showtime and Cinemax because of the explicit content, PTC President Tim Winters told The Wall Street Journal. But now they must subscribe to the very content they abhor in order to get original airings of Sesame Street for their children.

But the financial realities of public television left Sesame Workshop with few options. Last fall, the channel was operating at a deficit, according to The New York Times. With this deal, PBS gets to (sort of) keep Sesame Street at no cost. The nine-month lag between when new episodes air on HBO and their availability on PBS probably wont bother 4-year-old viewers, anyway.

For fans of the show (who isnt?), the deal brings an extra dose of good news. Instead of 18 episodes per season, HBO will finance 35 and a spinoff series.
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