Brighter, shorter Sesame Street bows in January on HBO

Long-running children's show Sesame Street returns in January.
Long-running children's show Sesame Street returns in January. PHOTO: SESAME STREET / FACEBOOK

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new Latina character, different sets, shorter episodes and an updated theme song are coming to long-running children's show Sesame Street at its new home on cable channel HBO in January.

HBO and show producers said on Tuesday that Muppets Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird will be joined by real-life character Nina - a young, bilingual Latina who works at the laundromat and bike store - when the educational series arrives at its new home on Jan 16.

Episodes will be cut by half to 30 minutes, the set has been "reimagined" and the theme song has been given a "new upbeat update", they said in a statement. "Families will see fun and fresh changes to Sesame Street and can depend on their favourite Muppet friends to provide them with engaging and educational content," said Brown Johnson, creative director of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the 45-year-old show.

HBO and Sesame Workshop announced in August that they had struck a five-year partnership that will make new seasons of Sesame Street available first on HBO and its on-demand and mobile services. Sesame Street had previously been broadcast in the United States on publicly funded PBS, which is free of charge to television viewers. Under the deal, new episodes of the show will run on PBS starting in the autumn of 2016.

Aimed at pre-schoolers, Sesame Street created Muppets like Elmo that have become cultural icons around the world. The show has won more than 150 Emmys and is broadcast in some 140 nations.

In the new season, Big Bird has a new nest, Cookie Monster has moved above Hooper's Store, and Elmo has moved into the 123 Sesame Street brownstone house.

The series is known as much for its celebrity cameos as its regular characters and the new season will see appearances by singers Gwen Stefani, Pharrell, Nick Jonas and Sara Bareilles.