2020 was set to be the first year in the last 55 years where there would be no Charlie Brown Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas specials aired on network television. At least, that was the idea of Apple TV, who recently purchased the rights to all of the Peanuts specials, and announced it earlier this year.
For many, this was just the icing on the cake of the worst year ever, the year of the pandemic, and the year when so many unwelcome changes have come about to our personal and professional lives.
To add insult to injury, for many of us who tried to watch the Great Pumpkin TV special on Apple TV through a computer for free on the special dates it was supposed to be available, their account creation would not work, and we were unable to watch.
According to many articles about this situation, a subscription was not even supposed to be required to watch. But, things did not quite work out that way, and a subscription was not only required, but unable to be created. Thus, the supposed free viewing window did not work on a computer. Without a connected smart TV, we did not experience whether the specials did in fact air for free on those devices.
On that day, we instead did a Google search to find out where we could actually watch it, and found a page on archive.org that has some of the Charlie Brown specials.
During this same time period, some consumers found that the available DVD copies were becoming either much more scarce, and sometimes massively overpriced in the eBay used merchandise marketplace. This was while original DVDs were going out of stock everywhere, because now everyone is trying to buy one. On Amazon, the shipping window is several months, well after the holidays will be over. It is unknown at this time whether the DVDs are part of the deal, or if they will slowly become available again as the demand dies down.
As a consequence of the deal, older DVD releases are simply selling out. For whatever reason, there were several specials which were impossible to find at a reasonable price, especially the Thanksgiving and Halloween specials.
Behind the scenes, however, a backlash was brewing against Apple TV that would change this plan. In Apple’s world, this deal would gain them a huge number of new subscribers to Apple TV+ streaming, since that would be the only way that anyone could watch the specials. Every other streaming platform, such as Amazon Prime, and YouTube have already removed the specials from their offerings.
New subscribers would come to watch the specials for free on the special days, and maybe they would end up loving the service and wanting to subscribe permanently. But Apple did not realize just how beloved these specials were, and how many people wanted to continue to watch them at home, on regular network television.
Hundreds of thousands of signatures were gathered on online petitions to bring the specials back to network television. Users of social media have complained about the deal, asking Apple to bring them back as well. Finally, last week, PBS and Apple TV have announced that PBS will air the specials ad-free.
This marks a change from the ordinary, as CBS, which owned the broadcast rights until 2000, and ABC, which owned the rights after that, have always aired commercials. So in a sense, this is a compromise. They are airing on network television, at no profit to the network.
Viewers who want to watch the programs this year can tune in for the Thanksgiving special on Sunday, November 22nd at 7:30pm, and for the Christmas special on December 13th. You can always record it on your DVR for later viewing, such as on Thanksgiving itself, or you can still watch for free on Apple TV during the free windows November 25-27 for Thanksgiving, and for A Charlie Brown Christmas between December 11th and 13th.