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Streamers still can’t watch “Rudolph” or “Frosty” on CBS

The digital distribution rights are held by another company, leaving streamers who want to watch on CBS through YouTube TV, Paramount Plus, Hulu, DirecTV Stream and other services in the dark.

The digital distribution rights are held by another company, leaving streamers who want to watch on CBS through YouTube TV, Paramount Plus, Hulu, DirecTV Stream and other services in the dark.

A picture showing an elf and a reindeer as captured in a Christmas television show.
(Image courtesy NBCUniveral)

Every year, without fail, Americans flock to broadcast and cable TV to watch their favorite holiday movies, including “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

And, for the last few years, cord-cutters who have chosen to watch their local CBS stations and affiliates using a streaming service like YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV or Fubo are surprised to learn that they can’t watch “Rudolph” and another holiday classic, “Frosty the Snowman” on the streaming version of their local CBS outlet.

The Desk first covered the situation back in 2020, when we reported that the original reason was rooted in various media deals concerning the rights to the holiday claymation film. Back then, the Walt Disney Company’s Freeform was the exclusive distributor of the film on cable and satellite, a contract that also extended to digital distribution through the Internet.

Fast-forward to 2023, and the same still holds true: While CBS has the rights to air “Rudolph” and “Frosty” on broadcast television, that same deal doesn’t extend to streaming services — including CBS-owned Paramount Plus, which offers live access to CBS stations and affiliates throughout the country.

Cord-cutters who have an over-the-air antenna plugged into their TV sets (or a comparable streaming device like a Tablo over-the-air DVR) will be able to watch “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on their local CBS station or affiliate on Monday, November 27 at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time (7 p.m. Central Time) and again on Saturday, December 16 at the same time. Cable and satellite TV customers will also be able to watch the film on their local CBS station or affiliate on those days as well, because over-the-air broadcast rights typically extend to those platforms.

But streamers who pay for a cable-like alternative — including Fubo, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and DirecTV Stream — will need to wait until Freeform airs Rudolph to watch or record the movie. Freeform is scheduled to air Rudolph on the following days and times:

  • Sunday, December 3 at 7:10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific
  • Monday, December 4 at 5:50 p.m. Eastern/Pacific
  • Wednesday, December 20 at 8:15 p.m. Eastern/Pacific
  • Thursday, December 21 at 5:15 p.m. Eastern/Pacific
  • Sunday, December 24 at 5:35 p.m. Eastern/Pacific
  • Monday, December 25 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern/Pacific

Freeform is available on Sling TV (Orange package), Fubo, Hulu with Live TV, DirecTV Stream YouTube TV and Vidgo (which is currently offline due to a business-related issue, but Freeform is available to existing Vidgo subscribers through the ABC app).

See the best Cyber Monday deals on streaming devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV and services like Max, Peacock, Paramount Plus and Sling TV by clicking or tap here. 

Through Cyber Monday, Sling TV is offering new customers 50 percent off their Sling Orange package (which includes Freeform) and a free Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite when they sign up for service by clicking or tapping this link. Sling TV also includes channels like the Disney Channel, ESPN, CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central and the History Channel in their Sling Orange package, and the service is available across all popular streaming platforms like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV (Google TV).

Likewise, Fubo is offering customers $20 percent off their base programming plan — which also includes Freeform — when they sign up for a free trial by clicking or tapping this link. The base package also includes local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC stations along with ESPN, Fox Sports 1, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, Comedy Central, BET, VH1, Nickelodeon and more. Fubo is available across all major streaming TV platforms like Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV as well as Android and Apple phones and tablets.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).