“Peanuts” gang heads to Apple

Longtime Charles Schulz characters head to new streaming service in 2019 as viewers’ preferences shift

Good grief, you’re heading to a streaming service, Chuck.

Apple and DHX Media announced Friday an exclusive deal to bring Charles M. Schulz’s iconic characters to the tech company’s new streaming service, scheduled to launch in 2019 in new series and shorts.

The Halifax, Nova Scotia-based company holds the rights to the Peanuts library through an 80 percent stake, with the Schulz family and Sony Music holding the rest. DHX Media also holds the rights to the DIC library (Inspector Gadget), and Cookie Jar Entertainment, home to Arthur and Johnny Test.

The deal also includes shorts produced in association with NASA and Peanuts Worldwide with Snoopy exploring outer space.

Details on Apple’s streaming service has yet to be unveiled, so it is not known if it would be available to stream on other devices other than Apple TV, or iOS devices. It is also not known if the Peanuts content would be available on Apple’s iTunes store for purchase.

The deal does not include existing library product, including the famous holiday specials A Charlie Brown Christmas; It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; and others. Those are staying at ABC, who outbid longtime home CBS for those properties in 2001. Peanuts specials have aired on all four broadcast networks, the last one airing on Fox in 2011 (Happiness Is A Warm Blanket.)

In the last few years, the Peanuts gang have had a resurgence in pop culture, thanks to those yearly holiday specials and the successful Peanuts Movie, released in 2015. Despite the success as specials, only one TV series based on the comic strip was ever produced – CBS’ Saturday morning cartoon The Charlie Brown And Snoopy Show, airing from 1983-86. After a 50-year run, Charles Schulz’s comic strip ended in 2000, the last one published on the morning of his death.

Fore! Snoopy and NASA are teaming up on new shorts featuring the world-famous astronaut in space.

And the arena is about to get even more crowded. In addition to Apple, new streamers from Disney, Warner Media, and others are expected to launch next year, adding to the total of scripted series. Already, Apple has signed talent to develop new series including Steven Speilberg (Amazing Stories), Loren Bouchard (Bob’s Burgers), J.J. Abrams and NBA player Kevin Durant. Already, Facebook (though its Watch service) recently launched a new scripted series featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Whether we like it or not, digital and streaming is the future of scripted programming as ratings for linear television networks continue to decline. This is perhaps why we are seeing more and more unscripted programming on the major broadcast networks – especially in the winter months. For example, CBS recently announced a major investment in unscripted, launching a new America’s Got Talent-like series World’s Best after the Super Bowl and NBC launching a spin-off of its highest-rated summer show titled Champions, while Fox has The Masked Singer on tap. The networks – notably ABC – seem to be throwing in the towel noting they can’t compete with the deep pockets of tech companies when it comes to scripted programming. While the networks are busy pitter-pattering around,  broadcast groups have decided to take the matter in their own hands, by scaling up with each other as the recent $4.1 billion purchase of Tribune Media by Nexstar attests.

If you want the “best” programming now, you have to pay for it (or illegally download it) as the medium is being split up into numerous turfs: a country club atmosphere where Snoopy and Catherine Zeta-Jones are served Beef Wellington, Baked Alaska, and Champagne and one where you have to climb up into a treehouse and dine on Cheez-Its and Crystal Light.