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Sesame Street shrinks to 30 minutes, new shows will premiere on HBO and PBS nine months later

Discussion in 'Sesame Street' started by Oscarfan, Aug 12, 2015.

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What is the biggest major change Sesame Street has been through in the past 46 years?

  1. Adding the first daily repetitive segment, Elmo's World, beginning in 1998

    13.0%
  2. Reducing the annual shows from 130 episodes in 1998 eventually down to 26 episodes in 2003

    13.0%
  3. Changing from an unpredictable "commercial" format to a more predictable "block" format in 2002

    22.2%
  4. Shrinking from a 60 minute show to a 30 minute show in fall 2015

    29.6%
  5. New shows debuting on HBO, then airing on PBS nine months later beginning in fall 2015

    22.2%

  1. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    The Sesame re-runs until new episodes show up. They're not taking the show away until then.
     
  2. Well, given that the reason the show is composed of short segments in the first place is because of children's attention spans back in those days, I don't think it's that much of a statement.
     
  3. JLG

    JLG Active Member

    Hi, folks.

    Let's all get on the same page. I'm trying to really nail down the specific reasons Sesame Workshop has arrived at the place it's at.
    I direct this question to those on here who always seem to be more in the know. What I'm trying to understand is....what HAPPENED, exactly?

    That is to say, how did we GET here?

    Piece by piece by piece, the Workshop's old business model has been chipped away, with the parallel result that Sesame Street's perennial form and structure have also been chipped away. While some of the reasons are obvious, such as the explosion of new and sudden competition starting in the mid-90s, and new research results from the same time pointing toward the need for a format overhaul, I remain deeply puzzled by the speed and thoroughness of their deteriorating situation.

    First and foremost----the output. How were they able to crank out 130 hours of material every year for almost three decades, and then within just five years, have to progressively cut it down to 26? That alone is a very dramatic turn that doesn't often get truly singled out here.

    Having connected the dots from other threads and circumstantial evidence, my assumption for the past few years has been that this all started when Newt Gingrich's Congress initiated dramatic cuts to PBS's budget. That would have been in 1995 or '96----maybe someone here knows for sure. It was very shortly after that that Sesame Street took its first major hit. They were still able to deliver 130 hours for the 1997-98 year----the last true season of the "old" show----but with the 1998 season it had been cut in half to 65. Then 50. Then 26. Very quickly.

    I mean---where did all that funding go? And so fast? Where HAD it been coming from before? It's just astonishing to me that what was so consistent for so long is now literally unthinkable. Today they're so desperate to even continue their current small output, they had to turn to HBO's offered lifeline. 130 hours today is BEYOND out of the question. But how? How did that become true? And how was it possible for so long before?

    For years and years, the only sponsors mentioned were PBS stations, Ford Foundation and Carnegie Corporation. Not even Corporation for Public Broadcasting was part of that picture for a good chunk of the '70s and all through the '80s, or at least not acknowledged on-screen. Was that enormous output of material really funded solely by those three sources for all those years? And what were the actual reasons Ford and Carnegie dropped out after the 1994-95 season? I don't believe that's ever been explained here. In any case, that seems to have directly coincided with the Congress-imposed budget cuts.

    Between those two things happening at the same time, it's no wonder that they had to turn to private sponsors starting with Discovery Zone in 1998. But what's amazing is that a few years down the road when they had three, even four private sponsors at once, like McDonald's and Cheerios and the rest, it apparently wasn't enough to even come CLOSE to the amount of funding that Ford and Carnegie had always dished out largely by themselves. I find that incredible.

    And still their economics continue to get bleaker and bleaker, even as they've adapted to continuing technological and cultural changes as aggressively as they can. Why? Why is it such a struggle for them to stay afloat now? Yes, they have to work harder than ever to make themselves stand out, but where did all that former revenue go? I'm just confused by how dramatically this all turned around, and how quickly things started down this path.
     
  4. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    My sentiments exactly. I agree that showing kids playing in abandoned construction sites doesn't work outside of the 70's, but other than that, Sesame lost its street cred in recent years. I've been joking about how Sesame Street has been gentrified with skits about Yoga (unironically) and making sushi. But this move to HBO first... funny how I made jokes about how no one should be able to afford to live there when it turns out, the ones getting pushed out of the neighborhood are the viewers.


    I dunno... if HBO airs a full hour series and only gives the half hour version to PBS, that's...actually worse.

    I still have some problems with a half hour format, but if there's one thing that soured me about the half hour reruns it was rewatching the Cookie Connoisseurs Club episode and seeing they chopped the ending off to fit. Now, this is all hypothetical, as I'm sure HBO's show will still be the half hour format, but if there was a half hour version made off of a premium hour version, I see nothing but huge edits in the show. And that's not taking into consideration the fact that even if it is a half hour, edits may still be the case. After all, it's not a full 30 minutes, but rather 25.

    Off topic, but I agree to that and I have a problem with CN's only one night a week of new episodes and every night is the same line up. It's working for them, and it's keeping the awful live action shows away, so I can't complain about that. But I think about how they just burned through the Tom and Jerry Show episodes just to put the reruns on Boomerang.

    Then again, I usually keep an open mind about things, but even I'm skeptical about Wabbit and Be Cool. Still not a great idea that will lead to low ratings that won't pay back, though. And to say the least of Sonic Boom and TF:RID's insanely early time slots.

    On the subject of the half hour format... I agree completely that the whole trying to be the competitors with the programming block thing (though clearly influenced by international Sesame Street series) was a mixed bag. I'm not really a fan of how it turned out, and those expensive segments drained money from the rest of the show. And, obviously, it was too expensive to produce more than a handful of those segments anyway, leading to massive reruns wasting footage. Losing them does shorten the series up a bunch. So, that's a positive...even though Crumby pictures was good. It's weird that a half hour's too little and a full hour's too much.

    As for Fraggle Rock, the difference here was that Henson didn't really have much choice of where to put the series. No one was willing to pick it up, at least without turning it into a Sesame Street knockoff. Here, this was a deal made for distribution because of cash flow problems for SW probably caused by PBS and their "all our money's going to outbid BBC America on British dramas" budgeting. No longer do they have kid's pledge month drives.



    Ah, yes. Newt Gingrich. Ol' bastion of moralities Gingrich who cheated on and later dumped his cancer stricken wife all the while going after Clinton for lying about sex. And is STILL a respected member of the GOP Gingrich. Yeah, small political rant, the PBS thing is spite and nothing but. Mainly because they have a liberal bias and, even though a huge cable news outlet, countless radio stations, countless crayon scribbled manifestos editorial books written by countless whining overpaid medicine wagon men pundits, that tiny little public channel is somehow considered a threat (even though their political shows feature right wing contributors anyway). I guess they feel the money is better spent funding private companies that make craploads of money on their own.End political rant.

    But yeah. Earlier this year, I went to Party City and they had donations for Sesame Workshop displayed. You could donate money to them directly without the bother of having a nice piece of merchandise to take home. I guess that does speak volumes about this.

    After mulling this over, I still say I'm upset and annoyed over the whole thing. However, I think whatever anger and disappointment shouldn't be directed to this happening, but rather that it had to happen. PBS has lost all credibility with me, they've been going downhill for years. This is the final straw, pushing Sesame Workshop to have to strike a deal with premium cable.
     
  5. JLG

    JLG Active Member

    It's not that they regard PBS as a "threat"----it's that they are simply ideologically opposed to the government providing any kind of funding for art/culture. (Just as they are opposed to Social Security, Medicaid, and all other such programs for ideological reasons----they do not believe, plainly and simply, that the government should, or even Constitutionally CAN, create such services. This stance has little to do with the results of the programs, which is why they are forced to manufacture distortions about their effectiveness and financial outlook in order to convince people of their position's credibility.)

    Regardless, to the extent that anyone here knows, is my cobbled-together understanding of what happened correct?
     
  6. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

  7. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Why are we teaching children to make transactions over the internet? You need a credit card to do that: are we teaching kids to swipe their parents' credit cards and risk not only ruining their credit scores, but making them vulnerable for possible credit fraud and theft of both credit and personal information?
     
  8. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    You are severely misinterpreting what he said.
     
    charlietheowl likes this.
  9. JLG

    JLG Active Member

    But again, why? Why are things so desperate now? What was still true in the mid-90s that isn't true anymore? How was churning out 130 hours annually possible?
     
  10. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    And yet, they aren't opposed to giving big fat cash subsidies to oil companies. I get the whole "government shouldn't govern" bit, but the PBS thing seems a little extra spiteful than most. I do indeed get the concept of not publicly funding the arts, and can sort of see that point of view, but with PBS, they seem to go from "government shouldn't waste money on culture" to "we need to get rid of these guys because we hate them that much." The fact that the programs are left leaning (and the fact that in the mid-00's try tried right leaning programming that failed miserably) does open things up to conspiracy. The Postcards from Buster episodes (gay couple and Muslim kids) playing into their hands. Not to mention that underground right wing gotcha "journalist" (who's name I can't recall at the moment) set up that sting operation to destroy PBS and NPR with his special brand of overly edited videos. So seriously, that's a lot of aggression towards "we shouldn't spend government money" focused on one outlet. I don't see what discrediting them and saying "they're brainwashing kids to be tolerant" has over "this is your money, wasted." There's a sinister angle if they're that opposed to it.

    Outside of that, I totally agree that the private money supporters of PBS kid's programming have been becoming less and less altruistic over the past decade and a half. There's this whole feeling that "yeah, but what's in it for us?" is why sponsor tags became more and more like commercials with the subtlety of a set of pots and pans falling down a flight of stairs. Clearly the tax credit and good press aren't enough, they need to turn this investment into advertising. Remember when Ralph Nader's consumer watch group scared ill informed upperclass parents about how big scary McDonalds was using Sesame Street to brainwash kids to be fat, and how they made a big stink about it... yet never complained about Spagetti-O's having "as much Calcium as a glass of Milk" or the other junk foods that sponsored other kid's programs with equally non-subtle commercials? Seems they took an easy target as a point of anger, and as a result were angry at the wrong things.

    The take home wasn't that McDonalds was sponsoring Sesame Street, but rather that McDonalds had to sponsor Sesame Street. Why weren't the protests met with vows to pledge the HECK out of PBS so they didn't need to rely on corporate sponsorship? Oh, because they were a parental group, and those are usually filled with angry, uninformed morons with way too much time and money on their hands who invariably make things worse than better.

    Also....uh.. the corporate sponsors don't want to spend as much money doing something good (which is a tax dodge anyway) as they do reporting that they're doing good. In other words, they probably spend more money on PR agents writing up press releases saying they care about charity than the charity itself. Otherwise, why bother being charitable?

    I really think that entertainment companies home video divisions are systematically trying to sabotage their own physical media so they can go to much cheaper, much more sweathearty deals with streaming. I can go on a huge rant about how this is going to hurt them and how Brick and mortar stores are depleted and cost jobs... but all and all, streaming isn't a bad thing, but obsolete media does have a place when these deals strike out or the net's down. I'm sure a lot of SW's revenue did come from home video sales, and this is kinda a blow to them. But then again, they sat out the merchandising fiesta that would have been the 45th anniversary. While that probably wouldn't have saved them completely, some nice merch probably would have funded them enough to stave this off a year.
     
  11. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    One thing I've thought about: Sometimes, there'll be a major tragedy that inspires Sesame Workshop to do episodes to help the kids deal with those kinds of issues (whether it be 9/11 or a hurricane). I feel like maybe they should have made a deal where if there was a need to make such an episode that PBS be allowed to broadcast it sooner. Kids without HBO shouldn't have to wait so long to see such important episodes.

    Of course, they could very well just make them special resource videos or television specials.

    Suddenly, I wonder if it'll be common to see new episodes on DVD (whether they're full half-hour episodes or just street stories) before the PBS broadcasts. It's been said that DVD sales have gone down and that digital is more popular, but I have faith that there'll still be DVDs. I wonder how long Warner Home Video's deal lasts (though I saw in one of the press releases that Time Warner also owns HBO, which I don't remember knowing until recently).
     
  12. zhelder

    zhelder New Member

    I just can't believe this. Sure, I love HBO, but a deal like this is antithetical to everything Sesame Street stands for (or at least used to pre-Barney).

    And they're licensing only 150 "old" episodes? I'll bet it's the same old stuff that's been available for years - 98% recent stuff that most people don't care about, and 2% "classic" episodes.

    The whole way this is being handled/spun is also a problem for me. Sesame Workshop waits until just before the expected start of the new season to drop this bomb, rather than give people some time to process and adjust to whet may be the biggest change to the show in its 46 years of existence. Then, they state that their output of the show will be "doubled", because they're producing 35 episodes instead of 18. But if the episode are cut to a half hour from an hour, isn't that actually less output? (And wasn't Season 45 twenty-six episodes?) Pure sneaky spin.

    It's outrageous that our gubment has cut public TV funding to the bone, and that's a big part of the problem, but there's other things that could've been done. I said it before, and I'll say it again:

    SESAME WORKSHOP, CREATE AN APP/SERVICE AND LICENSE YOUR ARCHIVES FOR STREAMING. PEOPLE WILL PAY $$$ FOR IT (MYSELF INCLUDED). DON'T WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT INCLUDING THE 4x SEASONS OF SESAME STREET. PUT UP THE CLASSIC STUFF. THE FIRST 20 SEASONS OF SESAME STREET. THE ENTIRE RUN OF THE ORIGINAL ELECTRIC COMPANY. 3-2-1 CONTACT. SQUARE ONE TV.

    Sorry, but I'm hopping mad about this deal. Sesame Street's been in a coma since 1993 when Around the Corner started, but now, I can truly say: RIP, Sesame Street (and PBS).
     
  13. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Well, I assume this means more original street stories, as opposed to a season of mostly new street stories and a small portion of recycled street stories from two seasons ago. We wouldn't get two street stories per hour-long episode (back in the pre-2002 days, there were occasionally episodes with two separate street stories, such as the season 12 heat wave episode where the first half hour focuses on the adults wanting to cheer up Oscar by bothering him, and then the second half where Mr. Rogers judges a race between Big Bird and Snuffy, or episode 3156 where the first half has Sherry Netherland wanting to find out the source of a squeaky sound at the Furry Arms Hotel, among other comical scenes there, and the second half has Gordon tutoring Carlos with science).
     
  14. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    Did they also tell you when the season is supposed to start? I'm assuming that since the hour-long shows are dropped on Nov 16, the new season starts then too.

    They kind of already do - Sesame Street GO. It's pretty much what you said though - mainly recent stuff with a couple dozen classic episodes.
     
  15. antsamthompson9

    antsamthompson9 Well-Known Member

    I'm friends with Chris Cerf on FB and here's what he says:
    It may surprise many of you that I'm very much in favor of the new arrangement. What a lot of those criticizing it are overlooking is that PBS has not provided significant funding for Sesame Street for years, despite stations' implying the contrary in their fundraising drives. Sure, if PBS didn't raise money from viewers, there probably would be no free place to view Sesame at all, so the public TV funding pitches aren't entirely misleading. But the fact remains that, right from the beginning, CTW (and now Sesame Workshop) has had to raise very significant funds from foundations, third-party agreements, and licensing arrangements just to keep Sesame Street on the air.

    The new HBO deal is a win-win, I think, because it permits Sesame Street to stay on PBS (and to be streamed free on PBS Kids); because it permits the Workshop to produce almost twice as many shows per season as they could otherwise have afforded to make; and because it provides SW with funding for additional educational TV series development beyond Sesame Street.
     
  16. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    That's one of the main reasons my PBS stopped having pledge drives ten years ago, because they weren't bringing in as much funding as they were wanting (our minimum pledge amounts jumped up from $20 to $25 per person our last pledge drive) . . . and at that time, it was mainly because those Far Right fanatics were going around town and crying out, "Don't support PBS! It brainwashes r kidz to tink its ok 2 b gay n dey shud b frend wif gay peoplez!"

    And again, it's always been in the Far Right's agenda to ax PBS, so again, I feel like should that ever actually happen, at least SST will already have themselves a new place to call home.
     
    Drtooth likes this.
  17. jobi71

    jobi71 Active Member

    My response may seem terse and
    high falutin and I apologize for that in advance. I know three folks who have
    worked for Sesame Street - two whom have moved on and one is still there.
    They earned far less than they would at another show. But they knew the
    mission and worked as long as they could. Corporate funding is down for
    PBS considerably. Government funding has also been cut - less than you
    might think. This is not a measure for PBS or Sesame folk to make money it is to ensure the survival of the show. PBS is spending its limited budget to buy rights for shows like Downton Abbey which generates viewers. There
    are about 4,000 episodes of Sesame Street - they could repeat them forever (hey the alphabet is always new to someone). They are doing what they
    can to sustain it.

    Two side notes: I would bet Sonia Manzano's decision to leave was fueled by
    (but not caused by) this change. She's been on the show forever and maybe
    the increase in episodes was too much or maybe since a big change was
    coming she thought: It's a good time to go.

    I am, however, concerned how online content will be handled. My sister with three kids 3-8 relies on Sesame Street. They have the Old School DVD's
    and watch it on PBS but sometimes youtube clips are needed. So I hope
    some content remains available and free. I also believe the episodes that
    deal with Mr. Hooper's death and the Hurricane remain available as they are a public service rather than a program. Excuse me while I get off my high
    horse.
     
    oknazevad and Oscarfan like this.
  18. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I don't know about terse, but yours seems to be the most rational and well-put response yet.
     
  19. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I'm pretty much over this and let it through my system, but there are two sore points that still stick out for me.

    The fact SW had to do both of these (cable assistance/half hour chop) because of PBS (job71 pretty much said what I said about pouring its budget into getting British costume dramas, and frankly, at this point let the *&^% Neo-Cons take the funding away), and the 9 month window. That's waaaaaaay excessive. There's no way there wasn't going to be some sort of time related advantage to HBO pouring its money into Sesame Street. No matter what went down they weren't going to let it simulcast on PBS, because why bother trying to get HBO, right? But here's why 9 months is too much...

    • First off, obviously, we know that's 3 months shy of a year. Almost a year is a long time in television. And with a pop culture heavy show like Sesame Street we could have bands break up, movies being flops, TV shows ending, and those moments that were hip and at the moment now seem like everyone beat them to the punch. Bad enough for production lead time and PBS's airing schedule that it happens now.
    • That's more time for PBS to rerun the heck out of reruns already. And while kids don't really seem to mind (I'd imagine some would), I'm sure parents will collectively moan, "UGH!!! This one again?!! Let's see what else is on."
    • And most importantly... did you really think PBS would, once they get these, air them in an uninterrupted pattern? I can see HBO airing all the episodes at once, maybe taking short breaks here and there. But lest we forget that PBS's run of Sesame Street the past decade has seen episodes stretched out from September to May. This year saw hold out episodes as late as June! So if PBS gets these 9 months later, it could easily take them 9 more months to air all the episodes. That's a year and a half! A year and a half to run 30 something half hours.
    So what would have been a better compromise? Certainly they could have gone with a still self-beneficially long, yet reasonably less so 4-6 months. Maybe simulcast a couple episodes, maybe the first week, then open the 9 month window. Or have PBS vow to run all the episodes once they're available. Or even have a special edition version of the half hour show made up of some unseen footage (Monstros Supersanos clips cut up, some Furchester Hotel bits) to give PBS exclusive "new" but not brand new footage to air in the mean time.
     
  20. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    Very well said, no "high horse" necessary.

    I don't think they'll stop putting their stuff on YouTube. As I had posted before, those viral views are essential to them these days and from an all-around standpoint, it would be foolish to give that up.
     

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