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Apple Faces Backlash After Moving ‘Peanuts’ Holiday Specials Off Broadcast TV

Peanuts
'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.' (Image credit: Peanuts)

Apple is facing backlash—mild backlash, but backlash nonetheless—after acquiring  the venerable “Peanuts” franchise, and then transitioning classic animated holiday specials to run exclusively on its Apple TV Plus streaming platform.

Starting with 1966’s Halloween-themed It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, all three Peanuts classic holiday specials will be available exclusively on Apple’s subscription streaming service, including 1973’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The shows are moving off ABC, which has had the exclusive broadcast window since 2000. CBS, which spawned the Peanuts TV special franchise in the 1960s, had exclusive broadcast rights up to 2000.

Two years ago, Apple signed a deal with DHX Media, a subsidiary of Peanuts Worldwide, to create new Peanuts content for Apple TV Plus. Apple recently announced a deal with Peanuts Worldwide and Lee Mendelson Film Productions to also bring the holiday specials to the streaming platform. 

The Apple TV app, which houses the Apple TV Plus SVOD service, is now the exclusive streaming home for Charles Schultz’s creation. But Apple is offering exclusive free viewing windows to all three specials. For example, from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, an Apple TV Plus subscription isn’t required to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. (The special is currently available for on-demand viewing to the SVOD’s customers.)

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will post on Apple TV Plus Nov. 18, and it’ll be available for free streaming from Nov. 25 to 27. A Charlie Brown Christmas hits the platform on Dec. 4 and has its free window from Dec. 11 to 13.

It’s the first time since 1965, when CBS (reluctantly, if you can believe it) first aired A Charlie Brown Christmas, that the Peanuts specials won’t be on free broadcast television. 

Despite the fact that Apple is offering a 72-hour free viewing windows as opposed to one-time broadcast airings—and despite the fact that the specials have been available for purchase on VHS, DVD/Blu-ray and transactional streaming for decades, there is grief over Apple’s gobbling up of the Peanuts franchise. And not the good kind.

“It’s like making It’s a Wonderful Life a Netflix exclusive,” tweeted one user, responding to Apple’s Twitter announcement last week. “These properties are only popular because they’re shared publicly. This kind of commercial greed is a disservice to American traditions and the common good at a time when we need to celebrate them more than ever.” 

Mike Prospero, who writes for Next TV sibling publication Tom’s Guide, wrote, “Like Lucy swiping the football away from Charlie Brown, my beloved childhood shows are being yanked away from network TV into streaming services that require you to pay for a subscription. First, Sesame Street relocated to HBO, and now all of the Peanuts holiday specials vanished like the Great Pumpkin from ABC to Apple TV Plus. Humbug!”

Many of the complaints seem to indicate a lack of awareness that Apple is offering a free viewing window. But some folks are concerned, perhaps justifyably, that simply moving the specials onto a streaming platform will shut some viewers out. 

“AND WHAT IF YOU DON'T HAVE APPLE TV?,” tweeted another dissonant. “It’s not built into my smart tv. So how am [I] expected to access it? What about families without smart tvs??? This is ridiculous.”

It’s not as widely available as the ABC Television Network, but the Apple TV app is pretty accessible. 

In addition to Apple devices, the Apple TV app is supported by most connected TV device platforms, including the leading ones, Roku and Amazon Fire TV. 

The app is also widely deployed on the most popular mobile platforms, iOS and Android.