'Sesame Street' exits US public TV for HBO

PHOTO: The Straits Times

WASHINGTON - After 45 years on US public television, "Sesame Street" is relocating to HBO in a move its creators say will result in more new episodes of the beloved children's program.

Starting this fall, "Sesame Street" will run for five seasons on the pay TV channel and its Internet streaming options, its producer, the non-profit Sesame Workshop, said in a statement Thursday.

"As a key part of the deal, Sesame (Workshop) will be able to produce almost twice as much new content as previous seasons," it said.

Once aired on HBO, episodes will be made available nine months later to the PBS public television network - the show's home since its inception - free of charge.

Besides the iconic series, Sesame Workshop said it will produce what it called "a 'Sesame Street' Muppet spinoff series" in addition to "a new original educational series for children."

More than 4,300 episodes of "Sesame Street" have been produced since it premiered in November 1969 and introduced youngsters to letters, numbers and Muppet characters like Elmo, Big Bird and Cookie Monster.

With its foreign language international versions, the program is said to reach more than 156 million children across 150-plus countries.

Industry experts said its move to HBO in the United States reflects changing viewing habits, with more and more children watching the show on demand and not at its scheduled broadcast time.