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‘Looney Tunes’ and ‘Elmo’ were HBO Max’s most popular shows at launch. Does that bode well for ‘family-friendly’ shows?

Like many streaming services, HBO Max (which launched on May 27) has been trying to develop shows to reach kids and families

SHARE ‘Looney Tunes’ and ‘Elmo’ were HBO Max’s most popular shows at launch. Does that bode well for ‘family-friendly’ shows?
Sesame Street is the backbone of PBS’s programming. Now it’s headed to HBO. The move is good for business, and Sesame Street’s longevity, but perhaps bad for the egalitarian spirit at the show’s core.

Sesame Street is just one of the children’s shows that is available to watch on the new streaming service HBO Max.

CHRISTOF STACHE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

HBO might be known for more adult fare like “Game of Thrones,” but a week after launching its new streaming service, HBO Max, children’s shows are coming out on top.

The most in-demand show after the service launched wasn’t “Game of Thrones” or “The Sopranos” or even “Friends”—it was the new series “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” according to a report from Bloomberg.

Like many streaming services, HBO Max (which launched on May 27) has been trying to develop shows to reach kids and families. With “Looney Tunes” as its most successful series so far, Bloomberg called it a “victory” for HBO Max’s effort to become a “family-friendly brand.”

“Looney Tunes” wasn’t the only kid’s show to perform well for HBO Max. “The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo,” a talk show hosted by the “Sesame Street” character, debuted in second place, though it later dropped to fourth, according to Observer.

With the success of two children’s series already, it remains to be seen whether HBO Max will continue to pivot to more “family-friendly” offerings or if the streaming service will focus on its brand of more adult series.

The service might have to do some work in order to win families over, said Melissa Henson, program director of the Parents Television Council, in an interview with the Deseret News.

“I think the challenge for HBO is going to be, ‘How do we get families to trust us?’” Henson said.

Why streaming can be important for children

Children are an important audience for streaming services, especially since their millennial parents are more likely to subscribe for a short period of time, binge a new season of a show, and then drop the subscription, Henson said.

But watching a favorite show is often part of a child’s daily routine, meaning that if children can get “hooked,” parents are more likely to subscribe for the long-term.

Young viewers bring other benefits to streaming services beyond their parents, who become subscribers. Companies are also banking on kids who use a particular service when they are young to stick with it as they grow up.

“What everyone is seeing is that kids are loyal,” Angela Santemero, a writer and producer for children’s series on PBS, Amazon, and Netflix, toldVariety in 2018. “They start watching one streaming service parents trust and respect and then they grow up with you. … It’s like when you get your first American Express card in college and then you stay with American Express forever. It’s that feeling. And it’s definitely that kids are a growing audience.”

HBO, despite its reputation for adult content, has been involved in children’s programming for years, including airing Jim Henson’s “Fraggle Rock” in the eighties. After purchasing “Sesame Street” in 2015, and with their access to Warner Bros. properties like “Looney Tunes,” HBO Max seems well-placed to draw in younger audiences.

Still, despite how well “Looney Tunes Cartoons” performed compared to other shows on HBO Max, it didn’t come close to matching interest in “The Mandalorian” when it debuted on Disney Plus, according to Observer. Which means that HBO Max might still have a ways to go in reaching a family audience.

How to stay safe

Most streaming services have a wide range of content, from family-friendly to shows that are better suited to adults. Trying to make sure that children are only exposed to kid-friendly content can sometimes be a challenge for parents.

For parents who use streaming services who would like to better monitor what their children are watching, Henson has some suggestions.

  • Parental controls. “I would strongly encourage parents to take advantage of all available parental controls,” Henson said. Individual streaming services or apps often have parental controls, but often, so do devices like smart TVs and phones. “That’s just an added layer of security.”
  • Keep devices public. “Regardless of the device, make sure they’re in public spaces in the house,” Henson advised. She suggests that anything that can stream media, including televisions, computers, and tablets, be kept out of children’s bedrooms.
  • Download an app. “If you’re a parent of an older child, there are apps that allow parents to monitor what their kids are doing online, what kind of apps they’re accessing and how much time they’re spending on those apps,” said Henson.

What to watch

Here are some of the children’s shows that you can find on HBO Max:

“Adventure Time: Distant Lands.”

Four new hour-long specials based on the Cartoon Network animated series will air starting June 25.

“Craftopia.”

A crafting competition with kid contestants between the ages of 9 and 15, hosted by YouTuber LaurDIY (Lauren Riihimaki).

“Good Night Moon & Other Sleepy Time Tales.”

An animated version of the classic children’s book and other bedtime stories.

“Looney Tunes Cartoons.”

A new take on the classic cartoon characters Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

“The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo.”

Elmo turns into a talk show host with celebrity guests like John Mulaney, Blake Lively, and Jimmy Fallon, as well as musical guests that will include Lil Nas X and the Jonas Brothers.

“Sesame Street.”

Brand new episodes of “Sesame Street,” as well as over twenty previous seasons of the show, will be available on HBO Max.

Movies.

HBO Max also features a large collection of movies, which includes:

  • “Detective Pikachu”
  • “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part”
  • “Madagascar”
  • “Rio”
  • “Smallfoot”
  • The entire collection of Studio Ghibli films, including “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away”