Missing ‘Sesame Street’ episodes continue HBO Max shakeup

It’s a not-so-sunny day for “Sesame Street” as Warner Bros. Discovery continues to shake things up at HBO Max.

On Friday, the media giant shocked and angered “Sesame Street” fans by removing nearly 200 episodes of the landmark children’s series from the streaming platform. The move follows mass layoffs at HBO and HBO Max, among other efforts by the merging company to rebrand and cut costs.

According to Variety, the number of “Sesame Street” episodes available to stream on HBO Max shrank from 650 to 456 on Friday. Most of the deleted episodes were from the first 40 years of the show, which has been raising young children for 52 seasons and counting since 1969.

At press time, only “Sesame Street” episodes from seasons 39 through 52 — as well as select episodes from seasons 1, 5, and 7 — were viewable on the streaming service. The 53rd season of the popular series premieres on HBO Max this fall.

“‘Sesame Street’ is and always has been an important part of television culture and a crown jewel of our preschool offering,” an HBO Max spokesperson said in a statement to Variety. “We are committed to continuing to bring ‘Sesame Street’ into the homes of families.” (WarnerMedia did not immediately respond to The Times request for comment Sunday.)

In addition to the flagship programming, several Sesame Street specials and spinoff series—from Sesame Street 50th Anniversary to My Sesame Street Friends—remain on HBO Max. For more Sesame Street content, visit PBS Kids and the Sesame Street YouTube channel.

HBO, and later HBO Max, has been the exclusive premiere broadcast of Sesame Street since 2015, when the premium broadcaster signed its first five-year deal with Sesame Workshop, which produces the children’s series. That deal was extended for another five years in a 2019 agreement to move “Sesame Street” from HBO to HBO Max. The partnership has drawn criticism from those who see the pact as the antithesis of the spirit of public children’s television.

In recent weeks, the streamer has come under additional scrutiny as Warner Bros. Discovery made a series of controversial content and staff cuts leading up to the launch in 2023 of a new streaming service combining HBO Max and Discovery+.

The first HBO Max casualties of the summer included the acclaimed sitcom Gordita Chronicles, which was canceled after one season, and the highly anticipated DC movie Batgirl, which had already been filmed and was set to be exclusive to the platform. Warner Bros. Discovery has also quietly removed a number of existing titles — including several HBO Max original films and animated series — from the streaming service.

By mid-August, the media conglomerate had laid off about 70 employees — or 14 percent — of the team overseen by HBO and HBO Max Chief Content Officer Casey Bloys. Further layoffs were expected at CNN, TBS, Turner Classic Movies and various Discovery reality channels after Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav promised Wall Street $3 billion in cost savings from the merger.

On Thursday, CNN pulled the plug on Reliable Sources, a respected media criticism program hosted by senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. The final episode of the series aired on Sunday.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-08-21/hbo-max-sesame-street-episodes-removed-warner-bros-discovery Missing ‘Sesame Street’ episodes continue HBO Max shakeup

Sarah Ridley

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