If you happened to be channel surfing on TV on Oct. 24, you might have caught the classic Peanuts animated special: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
It must have been on CBS, where it was first broadcast in 1966 and ran until 2000.
No, it wasn’t.
Then it was on ABC. They picked it up in 2001 and ran it twice-yearly during Halloween (in a truncated format and a one-hour version with You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown) from 2006-2019.
I’m afraid not.
Well, where did it appear?
PBS and PBS Kids, through its arrangement with Apple TV.
Hold on. Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and the Peanuts gang are only available through a streaming service and public television?
In October 2020, Apple TV became the exclusive home of the Peanuts animated specials through a licensing agreement with Peanuts Worldwide LLC (which is owned by Wildbrain Ltd., Sony Music Entertainment Japan and Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates). The Peanuts library was transferred to its subscription-based platform, Apple TV+. Under the terms of the arrangement, three specials – A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – must be made available for free on Apple TV+ for three days.
Unsurprisingly, some people became frustrated they couldn’t continue to watch Peanuts on free television as they had for more than 50 years.
An agreement was set up with PBS to air the three specials on a commercial-free basis. The first one was A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was broadcast on Nov. 22, 2020, and it was followed by A Charlie Brown Christmas on Dec. 13, 2020. Both specials were renewed for 2021, along with first-time showings of Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Apple has also been working with Wildbrain and Peanuts Worldwide on two new Peanuts animated series, Snoopy in Space and The Snoopy Show. Both were well received, as was Who Are You, Charlie Brown?, a documentary about the late Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.
Meanwhile, the first new Peanuts animated special in 10 years, For Auld Lang Syne, will be broadcast on Apple TV+ on Dec. 10 (and, one hopes, PBS and PBS Kids). Several other specials are reportedly planned for 2022 and beyond.
It’s great that Apple and PBS are working together in this capacity. This successful partnership ensures the Peanuts franchise will continue to broadcast old and new animated specials, and streaming series, for many years to come.
At the same time, it also says something that ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and other traditional American networks don’t have a stake in this venture. All four commercial broadcast/cable networks have broadcast original Peanuts specials in the past. The first broadcast of A Charlie Brown Christmas on Dec. 9, 1965, was viewed by almost 15.5-million households and finished second in the Nielsen ratings behind NBC powerhouse Bonanza. And CBS was the home of Peanuts specials in Schulz’s lifetime.
That’s not the case any longer.
This is another example of how streaming services like Apple TV+, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, Peacock and HBO Max are gradually taking control of our daily viewing options.
There’s nothing wrong with this transformation, of course. It’s helped create a viable and creative marketplace, open huge libraries of everything from sports to black-and-white movies, and increased choice for consumers.
Still, the nostalgic homes of many childhood TV favourites are gradually becoming distant memories. The end of free television (and TV sets) is nigh.
While the only true means of survival for commercial broadcast and cable networks is to become full-time streaming services, it’ll be difficult to capture a significant chunk of subscribers and viewer share against the existing competition that’s had a huge head start.
Oh, good grief. Maybe it’s time to release an informative Peanuts special with a very different theme: It’s a Streaming Service, Charlie Brown.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics. For interview requests, click here.
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