For the past twenty years, ABC has run It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas like clockwork, padding their runtime to an hour with specials from other years and sometimes giving the specials multple airings. But as of now, ABC’s full October TV schedule has been revealed and Great Pumpkin is nowhere on it.
There have been rare occasions where this special has been skipped in the past. However…this doesn’t appear to be a one-off thing. Turns out ABC no longer holds the rights to Peanuts. As for who does, you’re not gonna like it.
Earlier this year Apple announced an exclusive deal with Peanuts LLC to produce new cartoons exclusively for the Apple TV+ service. The full coverage of that deal apparently extended to the existing Peanuts cartoons as well (though the movies are owned by different companies). A day after ABC’s Linus-less schedule for October 31 came out, Great Pumpkin appeared on Apple TV+.
So is this classic special just going to be behind a paywall now? Not exactly. For the most part it will be, but Apple decided to be “nice” and offer the three holiday specials for free, for a day or two each. You’ll have to catch Pumpkin from October 30 to November 1, Thanksgiving from November 25 through November 27 and Christmas from December 11 to December 13.
In our opinion, this is a big mistake that could wind up hurting these specials’ immortality. There are those who would say streaming is the “future,” but consider this: in a sense, Great Pumpkin has been on-demand for over thirty years. It’s been readily available to rent or own on VHS, DVD and pretty much all other video formats. None of them have overtaken TV broadcast as the most popular way to watch them.
People still prefer to tune in to the commercial version every year. TV specials like this were made to be appointment television, at a specific time, with diaper ads, and nothing else feels quite right.
In addition, they’re being held captive on a service only a minority of households subscribe to. None of the specials’ traditional viewers are going to find them on something like Apple TV+ because they won’t be looking there. This could be the beginning of the end for the Peanuts specials as an institution. The only worse fate I can think of would be if these cartoons wound up on Quibi.