HBO Max has suddenly become HBO Mini, at least when it comes to kids shows and movies. As a result of HBO Max’s merger with Discovery+, many projects have been trashed, including the Batgirl movie. But for families, the HBO Max situation is even bleaker.
Because of the merger, HBO Max seems to be pulling out of the family space -- notably Sesame Street -- that many considered its niche. "As we work toward bringing our content catalogs together under one platform," HBO Max said in a statement, "we will be making changes to the content offering available on both" platforms.
In fairness, children's programming isn't the only Warner Bros. property taking a hit. Batgirl, for example, will likely never see the light of day -- after a $90 million investment that now is nothing more than a tax write-off. Still, at least 36 family-friendly titles disappeared from HBO Max last week without warning, giving viewers no chance to watch them one last time. Gone are OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, Infinity Train, Summer Camp Island, Genera+ion, Mao Mao: Heroes Pure of Heart, Aquaman: King of Atlantis, Victor and Valentino, Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs, and The Ollie & Moon Show, among others.
Sesame Street cut from HBO Max
But the cruelest cuts of all involve Sesame Street. Remember, Sesame Street started airing on HBO in 2016 and on HBO Max in 2020 to great fanfare and to the satisfaction of grateful parents all over the country. As of last week, HBO Max had dropped nearly 200 of its roughly 650 episodes of Sesame Street, many of them early classic episodes. Also gone is the Sesame Street spinoff, The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo.
One Max representative tried to focus on the positives, writing in a statement to The Washington Post, "Sesame Street is and has always been an important part of television culture and a crown jewel of our preschool offering. We are committed to continuing to bring Sesame Street into families’ homes, including the newest season premiering this fall and the nearly 400 episodes of the most current and historic seasons that remain on Cartoonito on HBO Max."
So, why the cuts? CNBC succinctly surmised the following motivations: "slashing costs, moving away from content aimed at kids and families, and decluttering the service." Repeats of shows cost money in residuals. Drop them, and there are no residuals to pay. HBO skews towards men, Discovery appeals to women, and neither seems to be a destination for kids. Why push family programming when the audience isn't there for it? And, sometimes too much programming means... too much programming, making it hard to find the good stuff and prompting some people to think, "Why am I paying for all these shows and movies we never watch?" It's a classic case of less is more.
Where to stream Sesame Street now
Because HBO Max has cut Sesame Street from streaming, this now means the only way to watch it “for free” is either on live TV on PBS, or on pbskids.org. Obviously, with the latter, you can’t actually choose from a large selection of old episodes. If you want to find a specific episode, you'll have to purchase that either one at a time or purchase entire seasons on Amazon or Apple.