Apple TV+ at six months: No breakthroughs, but plenty of promise

Since launching on November 1, 2019, Apple TV + has provided a lot of quality entertainment, but it has yet to produce a huge cultural success.

Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, Apple TV co-stars + The Morning Show (Apple)

On November 1, 2019, Apple finally launched its longtime Apple TV + streaming service. During construction, the company had spent billions of dollars, hired a long list of leading artists and filmmakers, and made massive advertising efforts to play in the booming field of streaming television. The launch accounted for most of Apple’s growing focus on services.

Six months after its launch, Apple can report undeniable creative successes on the service, including programs that have been critically acclaimed and one that has won awards.

But Apple TV + has not yet managed to deliver a massive hit, which is talked about and attracts culture, the kind of show that would add thousands of subscribers, not to mention the proliferation of memes online. At around the same time, Disney + had The Mandalorian, while Netflix had Tiger King.

And of course, there is no way that Apple could have known that just a few months after the launch of this service, circumstances would force the majority of households, in most of the countries in which it operates, to stay at home at any time, which leads to an explosion in the use of streaming services.

Judging the shows

In its first six months, Apple released live script series, as well as children’s programming, a handful of documentary series, and five films.

Apple's Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet
Apple’s Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet

This represents a lot of content for an entity to be published in six months, and it is clearly much more, in quantity and in quality, than Netflix or Amazon published in its infancy. Netflix, let’s not forget, did not publish House of Cards until a year after its first streaming broadcast, while the Amazon Prime Video broadcast, Transparent, did not arrive until almost 18 months after the start of Amazon’s original televised efforts.

However, it is a different world now, with much more competition and much more to come. And with that, the potential audience for streaming suddenly skyrocketed, due to social distancing.

Apple’s big gamble, out of the gate, was The Morning Show, with its A-list cast and heavy subject matter. Although the show started off creatively slowly, probably in part due to the backstage turbulence, it has improved considerably throughout its season.

The Morning Show won two Screen Actors Guild awards, for Jennifer Aniston and Billy Crudup, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for best drama series.

However, The Morning Show did not win at the Globes, and prestigious Reese Witherspoon television projects have appeared in the past 18 months, it seems to have less cultural impact than Big Little Lies or Little Fires Everywhere. No other Apple show has received award nominations, although most of them were released outside of last year’s eligibility window.

Another launch program, Dickinson, got positive reviews and seemed to please fans of its young star, Hailee Steinfeld. And while the two have been renewed, neither For All Mankind nor See has been any freak while Servant, which debuted in late November, seemed to have barely made a mistake.

Shows that arrived later, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet was an always funny and surprising sitcom, while Little America was a series of often touching anthologies on the American immigrant. Home After Dark, Truth Be Told and Defending Jacob also lived their moments, while Trying, which debuts on May 1, is funny and charming.

As for Amazing, it only lasted five episodes – less than expected when it was first announced – and in particular did not receive a renewal.

Among Apple’s films and other special programs, Beastie Boys was exactly the type of energetic, music-centric show that Apple should pursue, while Visible: Out on Television was a skillfully assembled look at the salvation of LGBT people on the television.

The film The Banker, while a good film, saw its original release scuttled after allegations of sexual abuse against one of its producers, the coronavirus having canceled its brief theatrical release. The film finally arrived, mainly in indifference, in March.

Apple TV + has done more good shows than bad ones, but certainly nothing that can be considered a cultural phenomenon.


“It is truly amazing to see contradictory and misleading informationon on streaming statistics on the Internet,” said longtime journalist David Poland. said Wednesday on Twitter. “It’s like the worst phone game in the world.”

There are a lot of things we don’t know about Apple TV +. There is no solid, publicly available data on subscribers or number of viewers for Apple TV + shows, nor does Apple publish such figures in its earnings releases.

Apple did not indicate an Apple TV + subscriber number in its press release or investor appeal on April 30, although it announced that its Services category, of which Apple TV + was a member, had recorded a figure of record business of $ 13.3 billion. CFO Luca Maestri said on the call that Apple TV +, along with other new services, “continue to add users, content, and features, while contributing to overall service growth “.

The TV rating firm Nielsen has started measuring audience ratings for Netflix shows, but has done nothing like that for Apple TV +. There are clues about how the service works, but this informationon is very incomplete.

Tim Cook, without quoting figures, called Apple TV + “a resounding success” in an interview with Reuters in January, also saying the service’s performance was “very good, both the people who get it in the bundle and people who pay for someone who hasn’t bought a new device. “

In January, Apple TV + had about 34 million subscribers, according to Ampere Analysis, although the “vast majority” of this estimated number takes advantage of the free year that accompanies the purchase of an Apple device. Disney +, which launched shortly after Apple TV +, passed the 50 million subscriber mark in April, although it was three months later, after the pandemic started, and based on an officially published issue.

Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi of Financial suggested in a February note that the new service “did not resonate with customers, perhaps because of its limited content offering”.

The research firm Antenna, cited by Forbes, measured that each of the main streaming services had registered an increase in registrations at the start of the pandemic in the United States in March. However, Antenna also found that Apple TV + had a 10% gain, which was the smallest of the services included.

Identity crisis

Servant of Apple (Apple)
Servant of Apple (Apple)

Aside from its revolutionary lack of success, one thing that is clear after six months is that Apple TV + doesn’t really have an identity. Aside from the vague appreciation of quality and medium to high programming, there is no established house style, or a specific type of show that makes people say “it’s an Apple TV + show” or “c is a good fit with what Apple Do. ”

It may be something that will eventually emerge over time, but it certainly isn’t yet.

Second, with Disney + booming, HBO Max arriving in late May and NBC Universal’s Peacock not far behind, Apple TV + faces stiffer competition than ever, without benefiting from the vast catalog of old movies and shows offered by its competitors. .

And an important part of Apple’s launch strategy was clearly to go into business with big names, the kind of people who could introduce themselves to company keynotes and get product attention in the media. with which they are associated.

But in its first six months, Apple has made no exclusive offer with any type of big name creation. They brought in former HBO president Richard Plepler for an exclusive five-year production offer, but Plepler is better known as a studio director than as a director or creator of shows.

In addition, the producers with whom Apple went into business have not always been the main creative voices behind their shows.

Steven Spielberg may have participated in an Apple event last year to talk about his rebirth of Amazing, but when the series arrived, Spielberg was not credited as a writer or director for any of the episodes. M. Night Shyamalan, although he directed two episodes, was not Servant’s showrunner.

Reasons for optimism

There are, however, many reasons not to count Apple TV +. Apple has continued to devote massive financial resources to the business, and there is no evidence that Tim Cook or any other senior executive has lost confidence in the project.

And it can wait. It has the financial resources to continue producing shows with no tangible return for years, if not decades.

The Beastie Boys, in Apple's Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys, in Apple’s Beastie Boys

Apple has renewed all of the original live action shows that have already debuted, with the exception of Amazing, while Defending Jacob is a limited series. The service has all of these second seasons underway, as well as another phase of new originals, although Apple has had to stop production of several shows due to coronavirus, including The Morning Show, the Isaac Adaptation Foundation Asimov and Ben Working session produced by Stiller Severance.

Upcoming promising series include JJ Abrams produced Little Voice, the animated comic series Central Park, a CIA-based show with Brie Larson and Masters of the Air, a World War II mini-series produced by Spielberg, and Tom Hanks, which is Apple’s very first series. internal production studio.

The rapprochement with Plepler is intriguing, since he was the executive in charge of HBO at a time when they regularly produced acclaimed hits. HBO’s long-standing strategy of focusing on quality rather than quantity seems to be suitable for what Apple is trying to do, and Plepler would have left HBO because, under the new owner AT&T, they were moving away of this strategy.

Apple also has an agreement with the popular film distributor A24 to develop films together, which will include the next star of Bill Murray On The Rocks, and Apple is also making a film with Mahershala Ali, who won two Oscars during the last four years. Apple has even been reported to be considering a bid on college football streaming rights.

In the longer term, Apple has other opportunities to develop Apple TV +. With all of the traditional Hollywood studios struggling due to movie theater closings, Apple, with its huge cash reserves, could see an opportunity to acquire an acquisition frenzy.

Apple is in a unique position to buy a distressed movie studio like Paramount, Sony or a smaller one like Lionsgate. The company could also simply purchase the rights to certain legacy movies and TV content to make them available to Apple TV + subscribers, or even as intellectual property for future development.

And, if Disney as a whole went on sale, Apple is, financially speaking, one of the very small companies on the planet that could play a realistic role. Although this rumor is emerging with alarming frequency, it seems unlikely, however.

The next six months

Apple has clearly had a mixed start in its original streaming efforts, with no sort of massive success in the first six months. But Apple TV + retains the benefits of money and stability, as well as what looks like firm support from company management.

We are very early in the streaming wars, and there is a good chance that the landscape will be completely different in a year, no matter what happens with the coronavirus. And the more Apple continues to create new content, the more likely the company will find this revolutionary program or film.

It is not there yet and does not seem imminent.

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