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PBS Brings Half-Hour ‘Sesame Street’ to Afternoons

While broadcast ratings have declined, the shorter eps are in response to growth in online and mobile viewing habits

Since 1969, “Sesame Street” has been providing an hour of children’s education and entertainment in the mornings on PBS. Now, thanks to the changing entertainment landscape, the show is looking at a 30-minute iteration. It won’t replace the morning hour, but will instead be an additional airing in the afternoon.

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The move comes as the network faces continuing declines in its children’s programming, while seeing growth in online viewing and mobile viewing on its PBS Kids Video app. According to the New York Times, the half-hour “Sesame Street” is slated to join the afternoon lineup on September 1, in time for the fall season.

PBS General Manager of Children’s Programming Lesli Rotenberg acknowledged the influence of mobile viewing in this decision. She said that the hour-long show didn’t lend itself well to mobile viewing, and that the 30-minute threshold was a more reasonable length.

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Clips of “Sesame Street” continue to perform well online, which is all PBS has had the rights to stream thus far. While clips will continue to stream, creating viral opportunities for the show, select 30-minute episodes will also be made available to stream in their entirety on PBS’s website, app and Roku channel.

Terry Fitzpatrick — the chief content and distribution officer at Sesame Workshop, the production company behind “Sesame Street” — was excited about the potential in this additional half hour as well. He said that the hour-long “Sesame Street” had a difficult time getting a second play in the afternoon.

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Now, those hour-long shows will be trimmed in half to fit into that afternoon schedule, when more children are watching television. Fitzpatrick said that the condensed version will mostly be cutting out longer feature segments, while leaving “the whole-child curriculum” the show generally targets.