LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Muppets, longtime residents of PBS, are getting a second home at HBO.
The premium cable channel and Sesame Workshop, which produces "Sesame Street," on Thursday announced a five-year deal that will expand the "Sesame Street" footprint and its amount of programming.
The next five seasons of the respected children's series will be available on HBO and its related platforms, including HBO GO and HBO On Demand. The deal will allow the Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit educational organization, to produce almost double the content of previous seasons, HBO and the workshop said.
It will also, for the first time, provide the new shows free to PBS and its member stations after a nine-month window, they said.
"Our new partnership with HBO represents a true winning public-private partnership model," said Jeffrey D. Dunn, Sesame Workshop's CEO. He said it provides his organization with "critical funding" to continue producing the show and airing it on PBS, its home for 45 years.
Besides "Sesame Street," the workshop will make a Muppets spinoff series and a new original educational series for children. HBO said it also has licensed more than 150 past episodes of "Sesame Street."
Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of the series, said she has "long admired the creative work of HBO and can't think of a better partner to continue the quality of 'Sesame Street's' programming." She noted there have been dramatic changes in the way children consume video and the economics of the kids' TV business, and said Sesame Workshop must "adapt to the times."
The move by HBO reflects another reality: fledgling TV competitors such as Amazon and Netflix are making their own forays into children's programming as part of their streaming services.
The new episodes will begin airing as early as fall 2015, with HBO the exclusive, first-run subscription TV distribution partner for "Sesame Street" and the new series, in both English and Spanish. The new series will be available for PBS after the HBO window, with no interruption in the airing of "Sesame Street" as part of PBS Kids service on public television's member stations, the partners said.
In addition to Sesame Street, HBO will also license approximately 50 past episodes of "Pinky Dinky Doo," an animated series for preschoolers with a focus on early literacy, and "The Electric Company," which relaunched in 2009, from Sesame Workshop.
Lynn Elber, AP Television Writer
Could this be a sign of things to come for "Sesame Street" on HBO?