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Twitch to stream every ‘Mister Rogers’ episode for free

LOS ANGELES — Won’t you be my neighbor?

Classic children’s show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” will get the streaming-marathon treatment from Twitch, with the Amazon-owned video service hosting a free, 18-day broadcast of all 886 episodes of the PBS show.

The “Mister Rogers” marathon will kick off on May 15 at 12 p.m. PT and will run through June 3, available at twitch.tv/misterrogers. The live-streamed programming block will feature many episodes that have aired only once and aren’t available elsewhere online. The marathon will begin with host Fred Rogers’ famous testimony in 1969 before a U.S. Senate committee about the value of public television.

Twitch also will run a fundraising campaign encouraging viewers to donate money to support their local PBS station.

For Twitch — whose core business revolves around video-game players broadcasting their exploits live to fans — the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” continues its expansion into non-gaming content. The site has previously run marathons of Bob Ross’ “The Joy of Painting” and Julia Child’s “The French Chef,” and in March broadcast 23 seasons of “Power Rangers” in a continuous live stream.

“Fred Rogers created a blueprint for children’s television that still works today, and his messages of acceptance and inclusion remain just as timeless and relevant as they did when ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ first aired,” said Paul Siefken, president and CEO of the Fred Rogers Company. “We are delighted to be working with Twitch to make the show available to fans, as well as reach a whole new whole new audience that did not grow up watching the program.”

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” debuted in 1968 and aired on PBS until 2001. The show for preschoolers starred Pittsburgh’s own Fred Rogers, who spoke directly to viewers, performed songs and puppet shows, created arts and crafts for viewers, and took them on tours of real-life locations. Each episode ended with the same positive message for viewers: Because we are all unique, we make each day special by being ourselves, and people can like us just the way we are.

The show appealed to Twitch, according to Bill Moorier, the company’s head of creative, because “Fred Rogers was a positive voice in fostering inclusivity and diversity, and, like our streamers, he talked to the viewers as if they were in the room with him. While his show was geared toward children, his messages have universal appeal.” (There is also, undeniably, a sort of kitschy nostalgia factor at work as well.)

The “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” marathon will include a custom set of emoji that viewers can use in the live chat while they watch. The emotes — for King Friday, Queen Sara, X the Owl, and the Trolley that takes viewers to the puppet-populated Neighborhood of Make-Believe — will be available to users who subscribe to the Twitch “Mister Rogers” channel.

“Fred Rogers believed in the boundless potential of all children, and his landmark educational philosophy continues to guide our work today at PBS Kids,” said Lesli Rotenberg, SVP and GM of children’s media and education for PBS. “We are excited to bring ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ to the Twitch community in this special event, honoring Fred’s legacy, and encouraging fans to support the important work that local PBS stations do to help all children learn and succeed.”

All proceeds donated from Twitch’s “Mister Rogers” campaign in the U.S. will support local PBS stations. To further encourage support of PBS, several of Twitch’s streaming partners will be sharing personal stories about the importance of PBS and the impact of its programming in spots that will run throughout the marathon.

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