Sesame Workshop’s deal with HBO to create new episodes of “Sesame Street” for the cable network was a slap of reality to the pretentious pseudo-intellectuals who make up a chunk of PBS’ supporters. To these cultural elitists, public television is the last vestige of education and entertainment unsullied by capitalism. They despised the advertising, product placement, and ratings-based programming of traditional networks, and “Sesame Street” was PBS’ crown jewel. Now, Sesame Workshop (the non-profit that produces “Sesame Street”) and the felt and fur that made up the stars of “Sesame Street” had sold out to the almighty dollar.
The move by Sesame Workshop (which will show new episodes of “Sesame Street” on HBO before they air on PBS) proved that free-market capitalism works, and did what the socialism-lite system PBS offered could not. The HBO deal also validated Mitt Romney’s 2012 contention that PBS should be defunded. President Obama, who was seeking reelection and fighting off Romney’s challenge at the time, criticized the idea heavily, and liberals claimed Romney was trying to “kill” Big Bird. Twitchy.com pointed out the conservatives that say Romney was now justified in his position, but the left has yet to concede that Romney was correct, which is likely why they hated the announcement.
In truth, “Sesame Street’s” current financial arrangement, which included licensing fees and support from PBS, could not continue. According to a report by The New York Times, Sesame Workshop lost $11 million last year, as revenue fell 14%. DVD sales (their main source of income) fell sharply as viewers chose to watch “Sesame Street” on demand or online. Only 10% of Sesame Workshop’s income comes from PBS, and in recent years, PBS had not been able to increase their funding, which resulted in fewer episodes of “Sesame Street” being produced.
For Sesame Street to survive, they needed to be unshackled from PBS and government funding. The HBO deal allows for added income to make more shows and increase production value, without Sesame Workshop having to worry about commercials that could undermine the educational message. Instead of hoping for more government handouts, or waiting for the cultural elite to back up their “save Big Bird” and “support PBS” talk with actual cash, Sesame Workshop made the smart move and let the free market decide. Sesame Workshop put on their big-boy pants and finally abandoned the “hippie commune” financing mentality that had held them back for so long. Once again, capitalism wins. Sesame Street wins. HBO wins. Most of all, the kids win.