Good Grief

Charlie Brown’s move to Apple TV+ is like getting a football pulled out from under you

A 54-year-old tradition ended this Halloween when Apple TV+ snagged the streaming rights to It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This year was the first time in its entire history the Peanuts Halloween special didn’t air on broadcast TV. CBS aired the special from its debut in 1966 until 2000. ABC took over in 2001 and kept them until this year.

Apple TV+ now has the rights to Great Pumpkin, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Since the service is also home to other original Peanuts content, exclusivity is a fair assumption.

Non-subscribers and subscribers alike were able to watch Great Pumpkin this year from Oct. 30-Nov. 1 for free, but after that, the show went behind a paywall. Apple will do the same for Thanksgiving and Christmas, with three-day free windows around each holiday. From now on, unless you want to buy physical copies of the Peanuts specials or wait for that three-day window the way Linus waited for the Great Pumpkin, you’re going to have to fork over $5 to have a Peanuts holiday.

This switch is the latest confusing instance of a streaming service grabbing the rights to a popular franchise that was once more widely accessible to consumers.

Take Harry Potter, for example. All eight original Potter films were available on HBO Max when that service debuted in May. In August, they moved to NBCUniversal’s Peacock. Then in November, some byzantine streaming rights deals dropped an invisibility cloak on the films. The only way to watch Harry Potter now is to catch it on cable or get a physical copy.

Or there’s Jurassic Park. Peacock had the first three films in that franchise for just 17 days after the service launched in July. Netflix then snatched up the dinosaur flicks and had them until the end of September — a mere two months. The films are now available to rent on something called FlixFling, as well as a variety of other rental outlets. It seems Netflix just used the two-month window to get consumers hyped for its new animated Jurassic Park show that premiered in September.

Those aren’t the only big titles streaming services used this year to get subscribers at launch. Peacock had the first The Fast and the Furious for only 24 hours. It also unloaded Shrek and the Matrix movies when it got rid of Jurassic Park. And let’s not forget that The Office is leaving Netflix for Peacock at the end of the year, Seinfeld is headed to Netflix from Hulu at the same time, and HBO Max already got Friends from Netflix.

Clearly, deals like these are the future of streaming.

All of these deals are great if you’re the head of a streaming service or a media company looking to goose your subscription numbers. Licensing rights deals are a lucrative part of the business. But it’s exhausting for consumers. Prizing exclusivity like this doesn’t create more choices, it just creates more confusion. There is now an entire cottage industry built around telling consumers which movies and TV shows are streaming on which platforms.It’s hard to keep up with all of these streaming swaps. What’s more, all of these titles are readily available on Blu-Ray or DVD, and they’re cheaper than 6 months’ worth of subscription fees to any streaming service.

PBS announced Wednesday it would partner with Apple TV+ to air the Peanuts holiday specials commercial-free on Nov. 22 (A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving) and on Dec. 13 (A Charlie Brown Christmas). Check your local listings for air times.
This comes less than a month after Apple TV+ put the holiday Peanuts specials behind a paywall following an initial three-day window of free streaming. Apple TV+ will still stream the Thanksgiving and Christmas specials for free from Nov. 25-27 and Dec. 11-13.
While this is good news, it still doesn’t change the fickle new streaming landscape.Consumers have more choices than ever, but when it comes to dependability in streaming services, we’re all just like Charlie Brown thinking he’ll finally kick that football.

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Jake Harris

Jake Harris is a Texas-based journalist whose writing about pop culture and entertainment has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and more. You can find more of his writings at jakeharrisbog.com or through his pop culture newsletter, Jacob's Letter.

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