A little over two years ago, Apple signed a deal to bring Snoopy to Apple TV+ for a series of educational programs focused on space exploration, done in cooperation with NASA. However, it wasn’t long before Apple snagged the rights to the entire Peanuts franchise, including the beloved Charlie Brown holiday specials.
Features like A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973) have become a shared holiday viewing experience for generations of families, generally airing on multiple broadcast television stations around the holidays each year.
So, when Apple picked up the rights to bring Charlie Brown and the gang to Apple TV+, it wasn’t about to put these timeless classics entirely behind a paywall, and the company clearly thought it would be doing enough by airing them on the Apple TV+ service for free, no subscription required.
Unfortunately, that didn’t go down so well with Peanuts fans, who started a petition that garnered over 250,000 signatures during last year’s holiday season. Some perhaps didn’t realize that Apple was airing the specials freely on Apple TV+, but even so, not everybody has access to the necessary hardware. It would seem that traditional broadcast television is still the great equalizer.
Hence, Apple relented by announcing a partnership with PBS to broadcast the specials on the PBS and PBS Kids stations, albeit after their debuts on Apple TV+. It seemed like a reasonable compromise since PBS is a non-profit organization and wouldn’t benefit financially from airing the Charlie Brown holiday specials.
2021 Holiday Viewing Schedule
The good news is that even though Apple’s announcement last year only listed showtimes for 2020, it seems this partnership with PBS wasn’t a one-off. Apple has repeated this for 2021 and will likely continue to do so in the years to come.
This time around, however, it comes with an important tradeoff. While both A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas were available for a limited time last year without an Apple TV+ subscription, that’s not the case this year. You’ll need to be a paying Apple TV+ subscriber — or at least sign up for a seven-day trial subscription — if you want to watch either special on Apple’s streaming service.
We suspect this is simply a result of Apple now offering these specials up for free on the PBS and PBS Kids stations. Last year, Apple announced the free streaming availability first and presumably only made the deal with PBS once the original plan became highly unpopular with Peanuts fans. At this point, it wasn’t about to renege on the promise of free Apple TV+ streaming.
This year, however, Apple has obviously decided that the PBS arrangement is sufficient for those who don’t want to sign up for Apple TV+. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving already aired this past Sunday (November 21), so if you missed that one, you’ll need to sign up for Apple TV+ if you don’t already have it.
However, there’s still time to mark your calendars for A Charlie Brown Christmas, as it will be airing on PBS and PBS Kids on Sunday, December 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
If you’re an Apple TV+ subscriber, both specials, along with the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, should be available year-round. But, of course, you can also simply buy the DVD if you’d rather add all three specials to your permanent collection.
Note that if you’ve never tried Apple TV+ before, you can sign up for a seven-day free trial, which allows you to watch all the Peanuts holiday specials — and more — at no charge during the trial period. You may also be able to get a longer free trial if you’ve purchased a PS5 or a qualifying new Apple device.