Parents of preschoolers, get your credit cards ready: Sesame Workshop launched a new subscription video service called Sesame Go Tuesday that offers kids access to full-length, ad-free episodes of Sesame Street on the web as well as on mobile devices for $4 a month or $30 a year.
This isn’t the first time Sesame Workshop has been embraced digital distribution. Sesame Street clips are already available through the PBS Kids offering as well as on YouTube, and kids can watch some full episodes on Netflix, Hulu and elsewhere. Sesame Workshop SVP of Worldwide Media Distribution Scott Chambers told me that the non-profit likes to experiment with different platforms. “Our general approach to life is that we don’t build all of our experiences in one place,” he said.
Sesame Workshop was also one of the launch partners for YouTube’s paid subscription service. Chambers called paid YouTube channels “a great experiment,” but added that his organization is still measuring the impact it has been having. “It’s been moderately successful” so far, he said, which didn’t exactly make it sound like a big money-maker. YouTube’s free channels, on the other hand, have been a huge distribution platform for Sesame Street, to the tune of more than 1.3 billion video views and close to one million subscribers.
Sesame Workshop’s standalone subscription service follows a bigger trend of kids-focused content offerings, ranging from Netflix’s Just for Kids service to niche services like Movile’s Play Kids service. But it’s also an interesting example for unbundling, since Sesame Go offers access to episodes currently airing on TV, but doesn’t require a subscription to a cable offering. Kaltura co-founder and President Michal Tsur, whose company is powering Sesame Go, told me that she could see more media brands strike on their own with niche offerings, and that subscriptions will play an increasing role in this space. “We are moving away from ad-based monetization,” she said.
For Sesame Workshop, part of going alone was also the ability to experiment. The service offers viewers access to 30 minute long episodes of the show, which may work better when kids want to watch the whole thing but parents don’t have an hour to spare. Chambers told me that these shorter versions have originally been produced for Australian TV, and that this is the first time viewers in the U.S. have access to them. Sesame Street had always been about experimenting, he said, adding: “Back in 1969, we used a new platform called television.”