Trump's latest budget proposal includes cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. There have been claims that this would endanger funding to Sesame Street. However, Sesame Street moved off of PBS and onto HBO over a year ago, so is Sesame Street at any risk of losing funding?

  • 1
    Can you quote where the article says that Sesame Street is in danger of losing funding? I don't see it. Mar 19 '17 at 11:48
  • @DJClayworth the sneaky thing is that if you search in google, a time.com headline comes up saying "Donald Trump Budget Cuts: NEA, Sesame Street, Civil Rights" but when you click on the google link, and look at the article itself, the title becomes "President Trump Wants to Kill These 17 Federal Agencies and Programs. Here's What They Actually Cost (and Do)". So somebody is making the claim, either Time or Google.
    – DavePhD
    Mar 19 '17 at 19:06
  • Sesame Street is still on PBS, but the shows air on HBO months earlier.
    – DavePhD
    Mar 19 '17 at 19:11
  • I would bet HBO would just pick up the rest of the funding. HBO's coffers have to be enormous compared to PBS. Though, its highly unlikely that Trump's budget will be passed in its current form. Its mostly a declaration of intentions. Mar 20 '17 at 14:11
  • If they need a bigger audience, they could convince Disney to let them add Yoda to the cast. He's a puppet, and has the same performer (Frank Oz) as Cookie Monster and Grover anyway. If to know how many cookies you have you want, learn to count to ten you must, mmm? Patient we are, strong in math skills are smart people. Mar 22 '17 at 12:20

Yes, Sesame Street does stand to lose some federal funding. However, it's important to realize that The Sesame Workshop (the Sesame Street rights holder) receives 31% of its funding (about $26 million) from all grant sources, which also includes corporate sponsorships and chartiable contributions from various foundations and private donors.

It's surprisingly hard to find out exactly how much of that money comes from the government, but consider that The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the agency that distributes federal grant money) only spends about 7% of its $445 million budget (about $31 million) on PBS programming in general (of which only a portion goes to Sesame Street). The lion's share of CPB funding goes to the operational costs of local PBS stations, not to content.

The discussion about ending Sesame Street's federal funding is not new. According to the Weekly Standard, Congress pulled funding from Sesame Street in 1981 because it was obvious that the franchise was self-sufficient without taxpayer dollars. However, politics being what it is, that funding has slowly crept back in over the years.

Mitt Romney made some waves during his 2012 presidential campaign when he discussed ending funding for Sesame Street as well. It made even more sense back then, because according to NewsMax (citing a Forbes article which can't look up because I refuse to disable my ad-blocker for their egregiously invasive ad bots), the Sesame Street franchise was worth $515 million at the time -- bigger than SpongeBob, Batman, Spider Man, and Barbie.

Although Seasame Street receives funding from numerous sources, both public and private, it has been operating at a multi-million dollar loss since at least 2013, owing to falling DVD and toy sales. The licensing deal with HBO is worth about $4 million annually, which only accounts for about 10% of it's annual production budget (source: The Hollywood Reporter).

Losing federal funding right now would come at a particularly bad time for the show, but the franchise is still clearly worth a lot, and it's unclear exactly how much of an impact that federal money represents. It's likely a drop in the bucket of their $100+ million operating budget.

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