The Sesame Street Conundrum

“So is he not going to live on Sesame Street anymore?”

“No dear he will still be on Sesame Street.”

“But you said he was moving”

“He is moving channels, not streets.”


Trying to explain my twin preschoolers that Sesame Street is moving from PBS to HBO hasn’t been easy. Telling them that there will be shorter versions of the program on PBS starting fall, that HBO has licensed its 150 library episodes, that Amazon and Netflix cannot stream them because HBO won’t allow them (silly HBO), is beyond their limited understanding of how the world works. For them, Elmo’s their friend. They had an Elmo cake for their first birthday and learned the first letter of the Alphabet with him.

We don’t have cable TV, so they have no idea what is HBO. We stopped our dish service after our kids were born. We realized that all we watched were muppets riding tricycles, and monkeys (“mommy his name is George..”) building igloos (and yes we do limit our TV time and do all those hands on activities from Pinterest).

Sesame CEO Jeffrey D. Dunn hails the deal with HBO as a “winning public-private partnership model”. PBS will still run the episodes, except for the fact that new episodes will be available nine months after they are cast on HBO, for free. Sesame Street Productions gets the much needed funds to create the show. PBS gets the episodes for free, if only after nine months. See, win-win! Just wished somebody asked the kids how they felt.

It’s not as if we cannot restart our connection (the dish still sits atop our roof as a memoir of days we spent watching marathons of Law and Order SVU, before our kids were born; occasionally reminding us of its presence as the roof leaks when it rains, right beneath where the installer guy stomped his feet while fixing it). We surely could budget in a few extra dollars a month so that our kids could watch ‘fresh’ episodes of Sesame Street. But that’s not the point. The question is, “Is it fair?”

The NBER (The National Bureau of Economic Research) paper ‘Early Childhood Education by MOOC: Lessons from Sesame Street’ states, “Sesame Street accomplished its goal of improving school readiness; preschool-aged children in areas with better reception when it was introduced were more likely to advance through school as appropriate for their age. This effect is particularly pronounced for boys and non-Hispanic, black children, as well as children living in economically disadvantaged area.”, which reiterates the fact that Sesame Street has helped children from economically disadvantaged areas, with limited or no access to preschool, to learn, for generations.

Looks like nobody’s listening to their tiny voices, following their dreams, realizing their potential. That boy from the PBS ad who dreams of being an astronaut one day, what’s his fault? And many more kids who look up to Sesame Street for their school readiness.

“When can we watch the Christmas Elmo mommy?”

“You can watch it for Halloween sweetheart.”