A Charlie Brown Christmas abruptly exits network TV
Details are scarce, but it looks like Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and his flimsy Christmas tree are heading off of linear TV and into the house Steve Jobs built.
According to a tweet sent from the official Peanuts account Monday morning, the Halloween special It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is streaming exclusively on Apple TV + this year.
"It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" is now streaming exclusively on Apple TV+. Watch it for free from October 30 to November 1 and get ready for more Peanuts specials this holiday season. https://t.co/Ue6e351CTq #PeanutsHalloween #GreatPumpkin pic.twitter.com/Tn0n3UKads— PEANUTS (@Snoopy) October 19, 2020
A quick check of ABC’s listings for the next two weeks showed no Great Pumpkin special airing in primetime, meaning something was up.
Then Monday afternoon, Vulture reported Apple’s Great Pumpkin airing was part of a bigger deal – one Apple made with WildBrain and Peanuts Worldwide, who owns the entire library (with the exception of theatrical content) of Peanuts TV specials – meaning all the holiday specials airing on ABC in recent years are now heading to Apple, abruptly ending 55 years of Peanuts specials on broadcast network television, including A Charlie Brown Christmas.
As the Round-Headed Kid would say…sigh.
According to Vulture, it appears ABC’s deal to carry several Peanuts specials – the Valentine, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s specials – not to mention other past specials edited to fill an hour’s time as the holiday specials were originally a half-hour in length, expired – though it is not known if ABC declined to renew or Peanuts Worldwide opted to move the specials to Apple without seeking any renewal for ABC.
As part of the new deal announced Monday, Peanuts Worldwide and Lee Mendelson Productions will produce new specials for Apple + , including one for Earth Day, Mother’s Day, and a follow-up New Year’s special to the one produced in 1985. Earlier, Apple struck a deal with the outfit to produce new content for its fledgling streaming service including Snoopy In Space and just two weeks ago, a new Snoopy Show and documentary on the Peanuts comic strip. There is no word if existing non-holiday specials (and there are many of them) are included in the deal.
ABC had been airing Peanuts specials since 2001 after 36 years at CBS, where A Charlie Brown Christmas had been airing since 1965. By the mid-1990s, CBS would start phasing out those holiday specials and others, leaving A Charlie Brown Christmas as the only one left by 2000. When Peanuts moved to ABC, the Thanksgiving and Halloween specials returned to network TV, not to mention a few long-lost titles such as You’re Not Elected Charlie Brown and Be My Valentine. Two new Christmas specials and a new Valentine special were also produced.
This deal illustrates how hard it is these days for broadcasters and cable to compete with streaming services. Peanuts is perhaps the only animated franchise not owned by a major media conglomerate as its value has only increased since the death of creator Charles M. Schulz 20 years ago. But due to its independence, the franchise was unable to take advantage of vertical integration like Pixar does, whose Disney ownership lands their content on sister property ABC, and Dreamworks Animation, who is owned by NBCUniversal and their holiday content generally lands on co-owned NBC.
While a lot of fans are understandably not happy with this deal, keep in mind this was bound to happen sooner or later when Peanuts Worldwide announced a partnership with Apple two years ago. Peanuts and Wildbrain figured they wanted all of their content in one place and you can’t blame them. Apple is making the specials available for free for a three-day window adjacent to each holiday and if you own the DVDs and/or Blu-Rays, you’re already set as these specials have been available on home video on basically every format for over thirty years.
On the other hand, ripping A Charlie Brown Christmas away from linear TV when other beloved classics such as How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town only recently returned to broadcast network television while Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty The Snowman never left now puts Charlie Brown and company at a disadvantage from a pop-culture standpoint.
But television traditions aren’t forever, as last year’s departure of Chicago Cubs baseball from WGN-TV after 71 years to their new Marquee Sports Network home illustrated. Nevertheless, losing A Charlie Brown Christmas in a blockheaded move to a bare-bones streaming service leaves the medium of television all the more poorer.