Add Big Bird to the list of TV stars that are charting new territory online. Today the Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind the children’s classic Sesame Street, announced a new streaming subscription service that will bring both new and old episodes of the show online.
The new service, called Sesame Go, will offer episodes from the current season of the show, older episodes, and the animated series Pinky Dinky Doo, for $3.99 per month or $29.99 per year. The service is currently only available via web browser, but Sesame Workshop has plans to release apps for iOS, Android and other streaming platforms within the next nine months.
“Audiences demand anytime, anywhere access,” says Scott Chambers, senior vice president for worldwide media distribution at Sesame Workshop. “We’re looking to basically connect directly with our audiences and then learn about what they want, how they want to engage with our content.”
Chambers says the service could eventually see its own original programming, such as short-form videos or interactive games. Sesame Street already has significant experience in the digital world. The show’s YouTube channel, where Grover, Elmo and all the rest regularly perform pop culture parodies tailored to an online audience , has more than 1.3 billion views and nearly a million subscribers. Episodes of the show are already available on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and YouTube. The Sesame Go library will be the most comprehensive to date on a streaming service.
The shift to the Internet mirrors World Wrestling Entertainment’s freshly launched streaming network, which features both live broadcasts of big wrestling events and archival footage of classic matches. That service has gotten off to a quick start, with more than 650,000 wrestling fans subscribing in six weeks. Sesame Go was not inspired by the WWE launch, but Chambers says many content creators are exploring ways to reach audiences outside traditional TV. “We’re all looking at the same metrics. We’re all looking at the same changes in consumption habits and coming to very similar conclusions.”
Like the WWE, though, which is keeping its popular Raw and Smackdown shows on cable, Sesame Street will continue to be a television staple. “PBS is still our single most important platform in the U.S,” Chambers says. “Our audience discovers Sesame Street for the first time on PBS in more than five out of 10 cases.” New episodes will still premiere on television and won’t be available on Sesame Go for about a week, though Chambers says that could change in the future.
Children’s programming is becoming fiercely competitive space online, as kids increasingly use their parents’ tablets and smartphones to watch content instead of tuning into TV at a specific hour. Netflix has had a “Just For Kids” user interface for years, and Amazon’s newly released Fire TV streaming device is heavy on parental controls to make it safe for kid use. Both tech companies are also spending huge sums to produce original kids’ programming that they want to make just as appealing as the shows on TV. Netflix and Amazon are partners for traditional shows and networks, but they’re also now rival content creators. In the long run, Big Bird will likely benefit from having a streaming service to call his own.