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'Sesame Street' and HBO Team Up for Five-Year Deal

sesame_street_hbo_game_of_chairs.jpgThe Sesame Workshop and premium cable channel HBO announced a deal Thursday that would bring new episodes of the series "Sesame Street" to the network. The episodes would also air free on PBS as they have for the past 45 years, but after a 9-month window. 

(PBS also plans to drop the hourlong Sesame Street program from its fall schedule, in favor of a 30-minute version that has proved popular.It is currently airing what has been the traditional hour-long version on weekday mornings, with the shorter version airing on weekday afternoons.) 

Sesame Workshop will be able to use the funding to create twice as much content as it had in previous seasons, it said in a press release. The Sesame Workshop says that in addition to the flagship children's show, it plans to produce a spinoff series featuring the Muppets, as well as develop a new original educational series. Those new series will also be made available to PBS stations after nine months of availability.

The new episodes of Sesame Street will begin airing on HBO in the late fall. 

HBO has also licensed over 150 past episodes of "Sesame Street" and about 50 past episodes of "Pinky Dinky Doo," an animated series for preschoolers that focuses on early literacy, and "The Electric Company," which was rebooted in 2009. "The Electric Company" originally aired from 1971 to 1977.

"Our new partnership with HBO represents a true winning public-private partnership model," said Jeffrey D. Dunn, Sesame Workshop's chief executive officer, in a statement. The partnership provides more money for Sesame Workshop while also allowing PBS to continuing carrying the program for free, albeit with a delay for new episodes. (A recent study asserted that children who lived in areas that could receive "Sesame Street" when it started airing in 1969 had better school readiness than children who did not live in areas that could receive the over-the-air broadcasts.) 

"We are absolutely thrilled to help secure the future of 'Sesame Street' and Sesame Workshop's mission for the nation's kids and families," said Richard Plepler, the chairman and chief executive officer of HBO, also in a statement. And Jean Ganz Cooney, the co-founder of Sesame Street, said that she has "long admired the creative work of HBO."

In fact, HBO's well-known creative work—gritty and explicit dramas such as "Game of Thrones," "The Wire," "The Sopranos," and "Sex and the City"—has not been considered as child-friendly as the entirely cheerful and wholesome "Sesame Street." The juxtaposition has brought out some Twitter comedians: 

Photo: In the most recent season of "Sesame Street," Grover competes to be king in "Game of Chairs," a spoof of the HBO television show "Game of Thrones." (Zach Hyman)

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