Apple says it will allow the Peanuts holiday specials — including "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" — to air on broadcast television, as they have for decades. The company recently sparked backlash after it bought up the exclusive rights to air the specials on Apple TV+, its new streaming service that few people actually use.
The company initially announced that the specials would be available for free on TV+ for three-day periods surrounding their respective holidays. But you'd still need access to the Apple TV app and be willing to create an account. Now, Apple says it will partner with PBS to air the specials on both PBS and PBS Kids in the weeks ahead. "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" will air on PBS stations nationwide on Nov. 22 at 7:30 p.m. local time, while "A Charlie Brown Christmas" will air on Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. local time.
The specials will be available to stream through TV+ for free from November 25-27 and December 11-13, respectively.
(Disclaimer: the author of this story was previously employed by PBS)
Public good — Even though Apple was already planning on offering free access to the specials during the holidays, it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way to hear that a major for-profit company would scoop up exclusive rights to a family-friendly television special that for so long has been available on free broadcast TV.
Some saw Apple's move as nothing more than capitalist greed — and ironic since Peanuts teaches children to not let the commercial side of Christmas ruin the holiday. It's unclear what motivated the decision on Apple's part to offer them on PBS, but a Change.org petition asking it to air the specials on broadcast TV garnered 262,000 signatures.
Growing TV+ — Apple has been trying to grow its TV+ streaming service in part by acquiring rights to shows and movies after launching with a handful of original productions that were largely considered underwhelming. Besides Peanuts, the company purchased rights to Tom Hanks' Greyhound after it skipped theaters due to the pandemic.
It also launched the Apple One bundle which includes TV+ along with several other services for one monthly fee. The hope is that Apple customers will see the value in paying $15 a month for access to a handful of services, like Apple Music and iCloud storage, that would cost a bit more separately — and in the process, they may check out what's airing on TV+.
It's estimated that TV+ only has about 10 million subscribers including those who got a free subscription with a device purchase. Services are an important part of Apple's business now, accounting for about 25 percent of revenue in recent quarters.
Correction: Peanuts holiday specials have aired most recently on ABC, not PBS as previously written.