Editorial: If Apple wants to get serious with Apple TV+, shedding the 'clean' image would ...

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in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited April 2019
If it's true that Apple is aiming for "family-friendly" material across most of its Apple TV+ shows, it may be fighting the streaming video wars with one arm tied behind its back.


"Black Mirror" - a hit show that would reportedly be impossible on Apple TV+.


Apple certainly made a splash its with its March 25 press event, announcing titles such as "Amazing Stories," "See," and "The Morning Show" -- with A-list celebrities like Steven Spielberg, Jason Momoa, and Jennifer Aniston. That was just the tip of the iceberg too, since Apple has many more high-budget projects in the works as a fall launch approaches.

What might be disappointing for some is that there have been multiple reports of Apple wielding a heavy hand in content, insisting that creators stay within certain bounds when it comes to sex and violence. Even CEO Tim Cook has become involved, despite no experience in film or TV, supposedly writing things like "don't be so mean!" in notes.

The company is additionally said to be putting the kibosh on storylines that criticize technology, so there'll be no equivalent of "Black Mirror," regardless of the artistic views of writers and directors.

We're not sure how this jives with Apple's stated intention of being at "the intersection of technology and the liberal arts." That's nothing new, though -- developers have long complained about Apple's content restrictions on the App Store, where apps meant to highlight possible war crimes have been banned for being "excessively objectionable or crude."

Read the room

Apple is a private U.S. company, and can reject just about any content it wants to as a result. It may be tone-deaf when it comes to popular media tastes however, which makes a business case for stronger freedom of expression.

The obvious reference point is HBO's "Game of Thrones," now in its final season. The show sometimes features graphic sex and violence, enough that even fans can be disgusted. Yet it's arguably the most popular TV show in the world, a huge moneymaker with tons of merchandise, cultural landmarks, and upcoming spinoffs. Other "mean" shows are institutions too -- "The Walking Dead" for instance, and yes, "Black Mirror."

You don't need to go blue to be profitable. After all, some of the biggest shows in history have been clean, such as "Friends" and "The Big Bang Theory." Beyond Netflix, Apple TV+'s closest competition is likely to be Disney+, debuting Nov. 12 with (mostly) family-friendly material from studios like Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and National Geographic.

Turn your head though to the most popular shows on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes right now. Many of them would be impossible under Apple's current rules.

That's also true when you focus on specific streaming services. Hulu's best-known show is probably "The Handmaid's Tale," based on the Margaret Atwood novel -- but it would probably run afoul of Apple for criticizing Christian fundamentalism, never mind other issues. One of Netflix's latest hits is "Santa Clarita Diet," a horror comedy about eating human flesh.

Apple's policies simply fly in the face of broader trends in the TV industry, which is a problem when you're asking people to pay a monthly fee. That goes doubly so if you're anchoring your hopes on original rather than third-party video.

Disney+ could be a counterexample, but that will launch with a decades-long library for just $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. In fact rather than competing with Apple TV+ directly, many people will combine it with Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video and shut Apple out of the loop. Apple will have its share of subscribers just based on the devout buying in early -- but the real question is whether it'll become a leader.

Who's in and who's out?

In the long term, Apple may face the issue of recruiting talent with profound content limitations. The best artists normally prefer partners with the most creative freedom -- the company lost a project by "Roma" and "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuaron for that very reason.

Given the firmly established platforms available elsewhere, if Apple keeps a tight grip on the creative reins, mercenary stars will stay for the money, but creative-oriented ones may look elsewhere. Apple will keep spending billions to retain and recruit talent, but for every Spielberg or Abrams it recruits, it will be losing a Cuaron, David Fincher, or Guillermo del Toro.

With hundreds of billions in its coffers, Apple will make or call Apple TV+ a success one way or another. It can afford to wait for traction, like it did for the Apple Watch. It's just a matter of how long it will take, and what Apple will sacrifice in regards to ethos to do so.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    Not to get into a debate on virtues, but let’s all read that title again and think about it for a few minutes.  😉
  • Reply 2 of 39
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,330moderator
    I bet the pictures and videos people shoot on their iPhones reflects the full gamut of iLife.  Apple should ask itself, who are we trying to shield?  And from what?  

    The “don’t be so mean” directive by Cook, if he really has issued that directive on one or more occasions, might be appropriate, but it’s not exactly a standard that should be applied universally, nor is it even well enough defined where the meanness line should be drawn.  

    I’d support a set of standards Apple, or any content producer, might draw up, but they should be standards that limit only needless excessive license.  

    Don’t be excessively mean if it’s not necessary to convey the story.  

    Don’t be excessively pornographic if not necessary.  

    Don’t appeal to baser instincts just to sell a story.

    Don’t lie or embellish when portraying factual events.

    I used to tell my employees, “our job, beyond anything we produce, is to conduct our business in a manner that allows us to afford both our rent and our principals.  Don’t compromise your principals in pursuit of even the most desirable of outcomes.” 

    Such directives don’t restrict artistic license, just excessive license.  I’m thinking of the 2015 Steve Jobs movie; I’d attempt to establish standards that would prevent that mess from turning out the way it did.
    edited April 2019 2old4funflyingdpkruegdudeleftoverbaconlolliverringerchick
  • Reply 3 of 39
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,826member
    I bet the pictures and videos people shoot on their iPhones reflects the full gamut of iLife.  Apple should ask itself, who are we trying to shield?  And from what?  

    The “don’t be so mean” directive by Cook, if he really has issued that directive on one or more occasions, might be appropriate, but it’s not exactly a standard that should be applied universally, nor is it even well enough defined where the meanness line should be drawn.  

    I’d support a set of standards Apple, or any content producer, might draw up, but they should be standards that limit only needless excessive license.  

    Don’t be excessively mean if it’s not necessary to convey the story.  

    Don’t be excessively pornographic if not necessary.  

    Don’t appeal to baser instincts just to sell a story.

    Don’t lie or embellish when portraying factual events.

    I used to tell my employees, “our job, beyond anything we produce, is to conduct our business in a manner that allows us to afford both our rent and our principals.  Don’t compromise your principals in pursuit of even the most desirable of outcomes.” 

    Such directives don’t restrict artistic license, just excessive license.  I’m thinking of the 2015 Steve Jobs movie; I’d attempt to establish standards that would prevent that mess from turning out the way it did.
    +1. We Agree!
  • Reply 4 of 39
    yaqueyaque Posts: 4member
    I am so tired of the God money. The profits arguments beating everything..... This article comes out the next day that this one other shows up: www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2019/04/29/study-kids-suicides-spiked-after-netflixs-13-reasons-why/3623872002/ That GOT is making so much money is not saying anything about the damage that it makes to society. The number of articles that says how much TV influences society are more than enough. Otherwise, why do companies invest so much in advertisement? Or do you still believe the argument that advertisement are "only" to inform?
    edited April 2019 bluenixlolliver
  • Reply 5 of 39
    I support Apple's intent/desire to stay 'family safe'. 
    mulrichgeorgie01jeffythequickleavingthebiggracerhomie3lolliverexsangus
  • Reply 6 of 39
    Family friendly content - direct competitor Disney+.

    oprah and her #metoo movement documentary or the house of mouse and the MCU?

    apple’s content - currently- has no chance.


    flyingdpchemenginjbdragon
  • Reply 7 of 39
    Sure, a lot of the most popular TV shows recently have incluced a lot of violence / sex. That doesn't mean though, that another block buster can't be focusing on something else. Also, we don't know "how clean" Apple wants their content. Thus far no one has seen any final show / movie.

    My take on the whole AppleTV+ is that the main objective is to lure people into using the TVApp. With Disney showing lower prices and an interesting catalogue, Amazon having a very large library in there and probably other smaller content providers hopping on the train (HBO), Apple just needs a hand full of good shows and a reasonable price to get people signing up. They don't care that much how many people are buying one or two devices or signing up for how many of their services. Just slowly but steadily making their ecosystem larger and better until no one can really escape it.

    Sure, GOT is a brilliant show. But who says that producers, writers, directors can't create something that big without blood and explicit content? Personally I prefer HBO over Netflix - not because of t*ts, but because I see 30 shows offered (not 3.000) and most of them are really good.
    edited April 2019 lolliver
  • Reply 8 of 39
    There’s plenty of explicit content available across other platforms. I’m glad Apple is choosing a different path and appreciate their efforts to produce cleaner content. 
    georgie01leavingthebigglolliverexsangus
  • Reply 9 of 39
    mulrich said:
    There’s plenty of explicit content available across other platforms. I’m glad Apple is choosing a different path and appreciate their efforts to produce cleaner content. 
    Seconded. There is already a saturation of TV content containing varying degrees of sex and violence. We’re not missing out... 

    There’s also no need for people to be naive and think sex and violence are ‘necessary’ to tell a story. Rarely is that ever the case, and rarely does a story even benefit from them. It’s simply a case that people want to see the sex and violence but want to feel more dignified or see more substantial content than if they were watching porn or some cheap fighting movie.
    mulrichlolliverexsangus
  • Reply 10 of 39
    The premise of this article is the exact opposite of how the market for film/TV entertainment actually works. 'R' rated material is not the most popular with consumers in terms of sales. 'PG-13' or below is the typical goal for the broadest sales appeal. That's why the overwhelming majority of films that are considered to have blockbuster potential are not 'R' rated. 
    lolliver
  • Reply 11 of 39
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,623member
    "Here's how Apple could improve a whole bunch of things we haven't seen yet"
    lolliverexsangus
  • Reply 12 of 39
    payecopayeco Posts: 426member
    The premise of this article is the exact opposite of how the market for film/TV entertainment actually works. 'R' rated material is not the most popular with consumers in terms of sales. 'PG-13' or below is the typical goal for the broadest sales appeal. That's why the overwhelming majority of films that are considered to have blockbuster potential are not 'R' rated. 
    That’s because the market for feature films operates totally differently. It’s dependent on people paying for each individual film. Plus, as a legacy of people previously being so uptight about sex and language, and to some extent violence, in the media, there is typically strict enforcement of the age limits at theaters.

    If movies theaters were a subscription and the box office and the person that rips your tickets didn’t exist to act as gatekeepers I guarantee R would be the most popular rating. Writers and directors have complained for decades about being forced by studios to write and direct for a certain MPAA rating rather than strictly their creative vision. That is why you see so many stars, writers and directors doing TV these days. Because Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, etc. give them the creative freedom they seek without and “notes” and limitations from the network or studio. 
    edited April 2019 chemengin
  • Reply 13 of 39
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member
    I just want Apple to invest in good content. Unfortunately some have decided that good is only synonymous with sex, violence and language. Now I’m not arguing that programming Apple invests in should only be PG Disney type stuff but I don’t think a show is less worthy of being good because it’s not rated TV-MA. Sometimes I’ll be watching a show on HBO and think they’re throwing around the f-word like crazy just because they can not because it makes the show better. Just invest in good programming Apple.
    flyingdpbluenixrazorpitmulrichexsanguschick
  • Reply 14 of 39
    I have so been looking forward to Apple's streaming and one of the top reasons was their intentions with the content. It is such a breath of fresh air because I feel like I'm suffocating on Netflix aside from a few shows I like, like The Crown. That is why I ditched my Netflix and basically jump on for a free month when next season of The Crown is released. Amazon isn't as bad and I have Prime for lots of reasons other than video. But they have leaned toward more filth as well in recent months. I'm an avid media junky and am really looking forward to more family friendly stuff. I'm finding myself frustrated with current content because they push so much crap that is so unneeded. I look forward to Apple bringing the same thoughtful standard to their streaming that they do with their other products. And personally wouldn't use them if it wasn't family friendly. I know the world loves their filthy tv but I'm quite tired and weary from it all. It is so unneeded and believe it or not, there are those out there like me. We could be the minority but I am wondering if there are more than we think. Or those teetering on the fence, desiring better but putting up with what's available. Netflix has become a smut fest and I can't even look through their movies without seeing nasty thumbnails. It's ridiculous. 
    mulrichlolliverexsangus
  • Reply 15 of 39
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 1,104member
    For a company that strongly believes in “diversity”, how about diversity of thought and expression. We’re  not talking about obscenity: We’re talking about adult content, and talented directors, filmmakers and writers  should be trusted to make shows and movies without fear of being censored. 
    In other words Apple, stop trying to sanitize content: Hire top talent and then butt out.
    maltz
  • Reply 16 of 39
    payecopayeco Posts: 426member
    I just want Apple to invest in good content. Unfortunately some have decided that good is only synonymous with sex, violence and language. Now I’m not arguing that programming Apple invests in should only be PG Disney type stuff but I don’t think a show is less worthy of being good because it’s not rated TV-MA. Sometimes I’ll be watching a show on HBO and think they’re throwing around the f-word like crazy just because they can not because it makes the show better. Just invest in good programming Apple.
    It could also be because that is just how some people talk and that is who the writers are trying to portray. The issue is people only notice when people use what they personally consider “excessive” language, not when people don’t use “excessive” language. No one thinks to themselves “they used exactly the right amount of ‘fucks’ when writing that dialog.”
    chemenginmaltz
  • Reply 17 of 39
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,501member
    The premise of this article is the exact opposite of how the market for film/TV entertainment actually works. 'R' rated material is not the most popular with consumers in terms of sales. 'PG-13' or below is the typical goal for the broadest sales appeal. That's why the overwhelming majority of films that are considered to have blockbuster potential are not 'R' rated. 
    The PG-13 is a puritanical sliding scale depending on the message of the film. Some films have far more verbal language gets them a PG-13 and other films show a bare ass and it gets them an NC-17 or R rating.

    Most of Apple's TV serials are centered around classics and dramas of life social issues. They will never be more than a PG-13. I doubt Apple is going to dive into the macabre of serial killer documentaries, etc.

    But if Apple has a chance to do a Game of Thrones and passes due to the violence in the novels then don't even entertain the idea of competing even against Disney who most certainly has created subsidiaries for such content distribution that insulates their man brand from scrutiny.

    Great story writing may or may not include sexual scenarios as they will reflect on various aspects of the human condition.

    Take for instance, if Apple purchased the rights to Jaqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart and decided to sanitize it's S&M aspects that are centered around the ``royals'' of various Houses in this epic fantasy saga there would be no interest by the readership who expect it to be faithful to the stories.

    In short, I don't expect Apple to invest in series that are based upon one thing and they Rated G it for children and expect that to fly.

    If they choose to develop a series based upon a well-beloved series they better stick to it or expect a backlash by the fans. Same goes for any streaming service provider.

    Apple will focus on driving stories that show the best in the human condition. Netflix will do that and with it's international series target a much larger audience spectrum while also doing strictly mature audience series content.

    Apple will never do the Ozarks and that is why Netflix isn't worried.
  • Reply 18 of 39
    payeco said: If movies theaters were a subscription and the box office and the person that rips your tickets didn’t exist to act as gatekeepers I guarantee R would be the most popular rating. 
    Your guarantee isn't based on anything that's ever happened previously in the market for TV or film, regardless of format. 'R' has never had the broadest appeal in terms of overall sales. It's a pretty big leap to claim streaming would be different, especially since companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu don't provide numbers in that area. 
    lolliver
  • Reply 19 of 39
    There are many really well written, terrifically produced, entertaining - and, importantly,  popular - adult shows on cable networks like FX, IFC, AMC that are not G or PG.
    So sex & violence are definitely NOT prerequisites.
    The question is can Apple produce and pitch enough of those type to the subscribing public when there are already so many options and only a certain amount of time (to watch) and money to go around?

    It’s a big gamble for Apple - but they are no strangers to that.

  • Reply 20 of 39
    payecopayeco Posts: 426member
    payeco said: If movies theaters were a subscription and the box office and the person that rips your tickets didn’t exist to act as gatekeepers I guarantee R would be the most popular rating. 
    Your guarantee isn't based on anything that's ever happened previously in the market for TV or film, regardless of format. 'R' has never had the broadest appeal in terms of overall sales. It's a pretty big leap to claim streaming would be different, especially since companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu don't provide numbers in that area. 
    Because the R rating inherently shuts out a substantial portion of the moving going market: teenagers.
    edited April 2019
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