When Behemoths Like Apple Hoard Cultural Touchstones, It’s a Recipe for Disaster

When Behemoths Like Apple Hoard Cultural Touchstones, It’s a Recipe for Disaster
Image: Apple/Peanuts

The holidays are looking a little less Linus this year for Peanuts fans hoping to catch Charlie Brown specials on network television, as has been tradition for decades.

Instead, Peanuts will be exclusively available on Apple’s streaming service — which has prompted a petition demanding the specials return to broadcast TV. It’s not the first time a streaming service has snapped up a beloved franchise to boost its subscriber numbers, but it does raise new questions about the implications of exclusivity rights to cultural touchstones.

Apple last week announced an expanded partnership with WildBrain, Peanuts Worldwide, and Lee Mendelson Film Productions that would bring more Peanuts — including “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” — to Apple TV+, which Apple has been attempting to bulk up with a combination of its originals and a number of acquisitions.

In response to the news, a Change.org petition requesting the Peanuts series return to broadcast television is picking up momentum. The petition, which says its goal is to “get our Peanuts back on television and bring back the tradition,” has amassed nearly 200,000 signatures as of this writing.

An Apple TV+ subscription currently costs $7.99 per month unless unlocked with a promotional offer. Apple said that it would make the aforementioned three specials available for free for three-day windows near their respective holidays, but users would still need access to the Apple TV app to watch them. Apple didn’t immediately return a request for comment about the specific terms of exclusivity for the Charlie Brown specials, however, a source cited by Vulture said that the Peanuts specials would not air on ABC in the U.S. as they have for the last two decades.

The change calls to mind HBO’s own acquisition of a cherished family franchise with Sesame Street, which now premieres first on the present iteration of the service with HBO Max in the U.S. Though episodes of the show still air on U.S. channels like PBS, an individual streaming service holds the keys to accessing newer episodes.

As streaming services compete ever more aggressively for our money and our eyeballs, we’re likely to see a greater number of goliaths hoarding legacy franchises. But most people can’t and won’t subscribe to everything, and that means exclusivity comes at the detriment of access to beloved characters and storytelling. That’s a shame.