Sesame Street has signed a deal with HBO that will allow the popular children’s show to double the number of original episodes that it will produce next year. Those shows will be shown free on Public Television nine months later.
In the meantime, we can see the difference in how a free market supplies a public good as opposed to government financing.
ONE of the arguments made for many government programs is that they provide a service the private sector can’t or won’t. That case is often emphasized by supporters of children’s educational programming on public broadcasting stations — if the government doesn’t do this, who will?
Yet it turns out public demand for a product, including children’s educational programming, generates a response from the marketplace. Fans of “Sesame Street” will soon enjoy more episodes of that program because they will now premiere on HBO, not PBS.In a five-year deal announced this month, all new episodes of “Sesame Street” will air first on HBO. Those wishing to view the shows free will have to wait another nine months before they’re reaired on PBS stations.
The money generated by the deal will allow the Sesame Workshop to nearly double the number of new episodes of “Sesame Street” produced each year, increasing that tally from 18 to 35.
Yet liberal purists will no doubt find this agreement off-putting. In this case, it seems dependence upon government financing for public television wasn’t producing an unalloyed public good, but was instead restraining production of the show. It took the “greedy profiteers” of the private market to increase the number of “Sesame Street” episodes.