Sesame Street’s move to HBO angers local parents, childcare workers


Sesame Street will now be brought to you by the letters H-B-O!

The iconic children’s program is moving from the friendly-confines of PBS to the adult world of Home Box Office. The move has left more than just Oscar feeling grouchy.

A number of Baltimore area child care agencies and others are expressing their outrage, noting that while PBS is known for offering family and kids’ favorites like Sesame Street, the Electric Company and Masterpiece Theater, HBO is rife with sex, violence, harsh language and is otherwise not child-friendly.

“It’s very sad because you could always count on Sesame Street on PBS,” said Jennifer Dorsey, the founder of A World of Friends Learning Center in Baltimore. “This must be a money deal. I know PBS is run by grants and community donations, but it’s a shame that they can’t keep [first-runs] of Sesame Street,” said Dorsey, who also holds a position on the Mayor’s Early Childhood Advisory Committee.

The New York Times spelled out how the partnership will work between HBO, the network known for the Sopranos and its mob hits and scantily clad women and PBS, often praised for its educational programming for children and adults.

In a new five-year deal between the network and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit group behind the children’s television program, first-run episodes of Sesame Street will run exclusively on HBO and its streaming outlets this fall. The arrangement allows the financially challenged Sesame Workshop to significantly increase its production of Sesame Street episodes and other new programming.

The group will produce 35 new Sesame Street episodes a year, up from the 18 it now produces, the Times reported. It will also create a spin-off series based on the “Sesame Street” Muppets along with another new educational series for children.

After nine months of appearing only on HBO, the shows will be available free on PBS, home to Sesame Street for the last 45 years.

“Kids are getting squeezed in the middle,” said Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, a nonpartisan education group that advocates for responsible entertainment. “In order to watch original episodes of the most iconic children’s program in television history, parents are now forced to fork over about $180 per year and subscribe to the most sexually explicit, most graphically violent television network in America. I can’t imagine a greater juxtaposition in television than this.”

In a statement, an HBO spokesman said, “We are incredibly proud of our role in securing the future of ‘Sesame Street’ and its availability to PBS for free.”

Childcare workers weren’t as enthused.

“I don’t think you should be charged to see Big Bird,” said Sheryl Crosby, the business manager at Creative Learning Center, an ethnically diverse preschool and childcare center. “My husband and I don’t have HBO because of all of the garbage that’s on it and I have a huge problem with this because PBS connects with education while HBO connects with, well garbage.”

Debi Karpinsky, the director of the Playtime Learning Center and Child Care, said she hadn’t heard about the Sesame Street to HBO deal until contacted Friday. “I see this as a big problem,” Karpinsky said.

“Everything has become one big horrible cycle. Now, kids won’t get what they need which is something simple as a [free] television show. It’s just inappropriate and more bad news because many of us watched Sesame Street when we were children.”

Karpinsky says the Playtime Learning Center and Child Care instructs children using thematic units, which teach basic skills through real life and hands-on experience. She says the goal is helping children to realize that learning can be fun.

“But, this move to put Sesame Street on HBO is all about the almighty dollar,” Karpinsky said.