It’s been a rough couple weeks for fans of comedy and 90s kids. First, we lost America’s grandmother, Betty White. Soon after we said goodbye to America’s dad, Bob Saget. Today we lost America’s uncle, Louie Anderson. All three were beloved for their contributions to American television. Betty may be best known for Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland. Bob will always be known as the original host of America’s Funniest Home Videos and Danny Tanner, the kind-hearted, germaphobe patriarch on Full House and Fuller House. Louie Anderson hosted Family Feud for many years and won an Emmy for his role in FX’s Baskets.
Mourning Celebrities In The Digital Age
When celebrities pass on, the fans whose lives they touched often feel as if they’ve lost a friend. Linear television has long aired reruns and specials to memorialize actors. In the streaming age, that’s not necessary. Fans can sign into the streaming service of their choice and find their titles to replay over and over again. When Naya Rivera died in 2020, Glee saw a boost in viewership on Netflix. (Glee is a 20th Century Fox series, now owned by Disney, and is due to arrive on Hulu soon after leaving Netflix December 1st). This is a helpful way to find catharsis… when those titles are actually available.
Honoring Disney Legends Via Streaming
Hulu recently added Betty White‘s Golden Girls sequel, The Golden Palace, on streaming for the first time. This was planned to honor her 100th birthday, but served as a way to mourn her instead. Disney likewise added her 2013 Nat Geo special, Betty White Goes Wild, last week. Disney also owns The Betty White Show (1977-1978), although there is no sign they intend to stream it.
In the case of Bob Saget, Disney’s flagship service Disney+ provides no way or recognizing this man despite the many, many years he anchored Disney-owned ABC’s primetime lineup. Full House aired on ABC from 1987-1995. The entire series recently left Hulu for its new home, the incredible HBO Max. While it aired on ABC for nearly a decade, it, along with most of ABC’s iconic TGIF lineup, was produced by Warner Brothers.
Bob hosted ABC’s America’s Funniest Home Videos 1989-1997 as well. Imagine the disappointment of subscribers waking up to find he has gone when they realize Disney+ is not streaming any of his 8 AFHV seasons. In 2022, being forced to pirate glitchy VHS tape recordings via YouTube is not a pleasant experience. Disney actually added most of Tom Bergeron’s 15-year run in early 2020, leaving some odd gaps including his first season, his last season, and a few in between. Now, nearly 2 years later, they continue to sit on all of Tom’s missing seasons, all of Alfonso Ribeiro’s current run, John Fugelsang and Daisy Fuentes 2 seasons, and Bob’s original 8.
Disney had a fantastic opportunity to announce any upcoming plans to add the missing seasons hosted by Bob Saget. Their silence speaks loudly. They’re not coming in February, possibly ever. This is disappointing. Fans took to Twitter to express there desire to watch his episodes.
Here are 6 of their tweets:
Louie Anderson won the 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series while playing Christine in Baskets, now streaming on Hulu. Louie also hosted Family Feud from 1999-2002. Later, he provided the voice to Gory Agnes in Pickle & Peanut, now streaming on Disney+. This doesn’t mean Disney+ is off the hook.
In July 2001, Disney purchased Fox Kids television library alongside what is now known as Freeform from News Corp. (20th Century Fox). As part of this deal Disney obtained X-Men: The Animated Series, The Tick, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, and a goofy little gem known as Life With Louie. Disney has ignored the majority of Fox Kids library for 20 years and shows no interest in releasing it on DVD, VOD, or streaming.
Life With Louie starred Louie (as a fictionalized version of himself) and included footage of him in live-action narrating / introducing the animated flashbacks. He provided voices to both Louie and his father, or as they’re known in the series, “Dad” and “Little Louie.” The cartoon achieved cult status in Eastern Europe and in 2007, under Disney’s Jetix brand (later known as Disney XD), they released DVDs in the United Kingdom. Disney has digitized copies of Life With Louie and it’s time for them to start showing love to the streaming-ready 90s Fox Kids cartoons they own like this and Biker Mice From Mars.
Fans have taken to pirated episode of Life With Louie on YouTube to mourn him.
Honestly, it sucks. This isn’t what “all your favorites” in one place should be like. It seems like Disney+ marketing was better suited for YouTube.
Why Won’t Disney+ Add Classic Series?
Series created prior to the streaming age often have contractual issues. The initial actor, creative, and musical royalties are determined and approved based on how a series will be distributed. Old shows were only permitted to air on TV or in reruns and syndication. In the past decades Bob’s seasons of AFHV have aired reruns on TBS, Ion Television, ABC Family (Freeform), USA Network, Nick at Nite, and Hallmark Channel. Life With Louie aired reruns on Jetix (Disney XD) internationally.
Over time, television series contracts added home media clauses that cover VHS and later morphed into DVD and Blu-ray releases. According to most sources (and an e-mail shared to us by former content team leader Joe Earley), streaming is usually not considered home video which means older series (like The Betty White Show) require new negotiations with music rights holders, companies and representatives that may be out of business or no longer living. It’s reasonable to believe that Bob Saget’s 8 seasons of America’s Funniest are not approved for streaming and that Disney deems it too difficult or not worth it to make the deals necessary.
Ironically, Disney is trying to change that definition in an ongoing battle with Bill Nye. He opines he is owed royalties for Disney’s previous Netflix streaming and VOD downloads of Bill Nye the Science Guy. Disney argued streaming is home media and has been using “Hollywood accounting” to rob creators of money owed. Disney actually beat Bill’s challenge, but his lawyer plans to appeal.
If this is truly Disney’s stance, it makes their content team exec’s previous claims that streaming rights are separate from home media rights and the primary hang up confusing. There are tons of Disney-distributed titles on DVD and Blu-ray that are still in the vault and should be streamable if Disney can repurpose those licensing deals. Variety does provide some eye-opeing quotes:
“It doesn’t make any sense at all,” said Douglas Johnson, managing partner of Johnson & Johnson LLP. “Home video is not the same as streaming. They’re not even close.”
Johnson argued that all of the streaming and download revenue should be allocated to “gross receipts.” In his experience, that is how most studios — 75% to 80% — handle streaming and download revenue on older contracts.”Douglas Johnson as told to Variety
Whatever happens, we will be waiting and watching. But for now, we’ll be doing most of that watching on YouTube.
|Betty White||Bob Saget||Louie Anderson|
Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.