For years, the answer to "can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?" was something to the effect of "just turn on PBS." But after 50 years of airing on television (first on PBS and then on HBO), the gang at Sesame Street is packing their bags and making the move to streaming. Yet like many moves, this one is a tad more complicated than it first appears. For starters, Sesame Street's move to HBO Max doesn't mean the much-beloved children's show, a longtime staple of PBS' programing, is completely leaving the nation's main public television provider. But it does mean that parents will have to sign up for HBO Max if their kids want access to new Sesame Street episodes and content as soon as they become available.
As part of its commitment to offering quality kids' and family programming, HBO Max has teamed up with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit media and education organization that owns Sesame Street, to bring fans five new seasons of Sesame Street along with a slew of new series, annual specials, and a library of older episodes.
Currently you can catch new episodes of Sesame Street on HBO (or, after a nine-month delay, re-aired on PBS). But according to a joint press release, new Sesame Street content is scheduled to launch on HBO Max in the spring on 2020 beginning with the show's 51st season.
"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," Steve Youngwood, Sesame Workshop's President of Media and Education and Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement.
Along with five new 35-episode long seasons of Sesame Street, that new content is slated to also include The Not Too Late Show With Elmo, a live-action, family-centric talk show where Elmo interviews celebrity friends. HBO Max will also be home to new annual Sesame Street specials, like the upcoming The Monster at the End of This Show as well as an animated Sesame Street spin-off titled Mecha Builders. The new deal also makes HBO Max the exclusive on-demand home to Sesame Street's 50-year library of shows.
"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," WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer Chairman Robert Greenblatt said in a statement. "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."
But Sesame Street isn't moving away from PBS for good. In fact, both HBO Max and Sesame Workshop were careful to stress in their press release that Sesame Street "will continue to be available to every child in America for free on PBS KIDS." Similarly to the deal struck up in 2015 when funding troubles saw Sesame Workshop partner with HBO, new episodes of Sesame Street and its related content will air first on HBO Max. They'll then air at a later date for free on PBS Kids, according to a joint press release from HBO Max and Sesame Workshop.
At the moment there's no confirmed pricing info for HBO Max —although CNET has reported it could cost somewhere around $15 a month — meaning parents may have to wait to see if a subscription is worth getting first access to new Sesame Street content. Of course, parents and children can always keep tuning in, for free, to episodes aired with a delay on PBS. Hey, I won't tell, if you won't.