Sesame Street has always been one of television’s great educational resources, teaching kids about all sorts of important concepts: Fundamental stuff like counting, phonics, and the grim inevitability of death. We can now add to those invaluable lessons a few quick primers on the topics of “capitalism” and “streaming exclusivity”, with HBO Max announcing this week that, come 2020, it’ll be the exclusive streaming home for new episodes of the venerable children’s show. This move toward crushing the online competition (via Muppets) follows the 2015 acquisition of the program by HBO, which has been airing new episodes of the show ever since.
This is obviously a big get for the yet-to-debut streaming service, which, even by the extremely qualified standards of modern subscription launches, is offering up a pretty tepid host of “Originals” so far. (Even if we are perversely excited for that Gremlins prequel cartoon, because we’re morons.) Controlling access to a show that’s still held up as the gold standard for children’s educational programming—indeed, a series that has been proven by educational researchers to provide access to important building blocks in childhood development—is obviously great news for Warner Media’s investors.
The big unanswered question here, though, is whether HBO Max—which pundits are speculating will launch at a $15 per month price point, same as its cable parent, making it one of the highest prices in the streaming market—will maintain HBO’s policy of allowing new episodes of Street to eventually migrate over to PBS (currently available, to everybody, at a rather non-competitive $0 per month level). (Update: HBO Max reached out to us to clarify that Sesame Street—including newly commissioned HBO Max content—will continue to be available via the free PBS Kids network after it premieres on the streaming service.) That’s pretty much the only thing that’s stopped the felt-loving proletariat from tearing this whole thing down already; after all, a streaming service with all 50 seasons of Sesame Street sounds nice and all, but gating it behind an extra $180 per year could turn into a punishing extra expense for the low-income families already struggling to find cost-effective educational tools for their kids.