How ABC's Loss of 'Great Pumpkin' Could Make for a Not-Great Halloween

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How ABC’s Loss of Charlie Brown’s ‘Great Pumpkin’ Could Lead to a Bummer Halloween

Classic Peanuts specials, now on Apple TV+, combined for more than 30 million viewers last year on broadcast network

Apple TV+ is pulling the football from millions of traditional television viewers hoping to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” on broadcast, and at least a few hundred thousand of them are so unhappy about it they’ve launched a Change.org petition over the move.

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Former rights holder ABC is also missing out due to the recently expanded Apple TV+ deal for the catalog of specials based on Charles M. Schulz’ “Peanuts” cartoon — including classics like “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

The specials were good for a few million viewers apiece, annually — that adds up.

Counting seven days of delayed viewing, ABC’s Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 airing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” tallied 6.3 million total viewers — a “treat” in the current TV landscape. A second airing on Sunday, Oct. 27 had 3.9 million — that one would turn out to be ABC’s last.

Of course, Halloween is just the beginning of Peanuts season. ABC’s airing of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 attracted 6.2 million viewers.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” on Thursday, Dec. 5 received 5.8 million viewers. Another airing on Tuesday, Dec. 17 got 5.5 million.

Finally, the relatively unheralded “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown” on Thursday, Dec. 26 had 3 million viewers on ABC.

OK, so that’s not a particularly impressive number. But if you add them all up, the Peanuts specials delivered more than 30 million viewers over six total airings and seven days of DVR catch-up.

Plus, this kind of nostalgia programming, which is gleefully handed down from one generation to the next, curries favorable feelings from viewers toward the platform — hence the climbing Change.org petition numbers. And one of the traditional Big 3 networks just feels like the appropriate spot for traditional holiday programming for families.

Though the classic Peanuts specials are no longer airing on free, over-the-air television, each will have a free window on Apple TV+.

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” went live on Apple TV+ last Monday. It will be available for free from October 30 until November 1.

Happy Halloween, we suppose.

“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” launches on the platform on November 18, and will be available for free from November 25 until November 27.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” launches December 4 and will be available for free from December 11 until December 13.

Apple TV+ did not respond to questions about the status of “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown.”

Tony Maglio

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