Apple TV+, now one year old, looks poised for growth

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in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
Apple TV+ got off to a slow start, but Apple's position allows for that -- and it's had a great deal to celebrate of late.

Jason Sudeikis as coach Ted Lasso on
Jason Sudeikis as coach Ted Lasso on "Ted Lasso"


When Apple TV officially launched on November 1, 2019, Apple's long-awaited streaming TV service appeared underwhelming to many observers, a view that stuck well into 2020.

Of the shows that arrived at launch from Apple TV+, none were really cultural breakthroughs, nor were any of the series that followed in the months afterward. Sure, Apple TV+ could point to some creative successes in its first few months, but nothing that really made any real headway.

Nothing Apple put on Apple TV+ made as much of an impact as The Mandalorian, the Star Wars-associated show that Disney+ launched right out of the gate. Competition from new streaming services proliferated throughout the spring and summer of 2020, and when the coronavirus led to millions of households being stuck at home, it was Netflix's Tiger King that dominated the cultural conversation, not anything on Apple TV+.

However, Apple TV+ has benefited from an impressive hot streak of good news throughout the spring and summer of 2020. It had a couple of series break through, it acquired some impressive movies and shows, and it's gotten into business with some major talents. And after a pause due to the pandemic, production has resumed on several of the service's important shows.

Heading into year two, Apple TV+ suddenly looks to be on the upswing.

Jacob and Ted

They may not be Mandalorian-sized hits, but Apple appears to have broken through in 2020 with a pair of shows. Defending Jacob, the mystery and legal procedural starring Captain America actor Chris Evans, was seen as the most popular show for Apple TV+ in the early going.

Chris Evans and Jaeden Martell on 'Defending Jacob'
Chris Evans and Jaeden Martell on "Defending Jacob"


Defending Jacob, unfortunately for Apple, was a limited series, one that ended in such a way that future seasons are practically impossible. However, that's far from the case with Apple's other success, Ted Lasso.

Apple TV+, in its first year, got into business with A-list stars, Oscar winners, and creators of great accomplishment. But the show that connected like no other is a half-hour comedy starring a former Saturday Night Live performer and occasional movie actor, about an American football coach leading a soccer club in England.

Ted Lasso, which is based on a series of TV commercials from when NBC started broadcasting the English Premier League in 2013, is undeniably connecting with audiences, due in part to its ethos of unrelenting optimism. Tim Cook said as much, on Apple's quarterly earnings call on October 29.

"Apple TV+ continues to impress, from fan favorites like Ted Lasso, which has won a worldwide audience with its hopeful tone during challenging times, to critical and award praise, including a Primetime Emmy for Billy Crudup in The Morning Show," Cook said on the call, which otherwise was light on new information about Apple TV+.

Ted Lasso not only received a second season, but it's also been renewed for a third, becoming the second Apple TV+ series, after Dickinson, to get a second renewal.

Ratings? What ratings?

The cast of
The cast of "Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet"


As is often the case with measures of streaming TV audiences, there are no "official" figures in terms of viewership for Apple TV+ shows. Apple has never released them -- nor has it released any subscriber numbers. There are no neutral arbiters with universally accepted authoritative numbers about the size of such audiences.

Nielsen recently began releasing weekly ratings figures for streaming TV shows, although Apple TV+ has not yet been included in those ratings. There are, however, various third party research firms and other websites that put out such data.

The "streaming TV guide" Realgood, in early October, released a ranking of the most-watched Apple TV+ shows in the third quarter, which listed Ted Lasso as the most watched series on the platform, with 18.4 percent of the total share of streams. The Morning Show was second, with 15.8 percent, and Defending Jacob third with 10.4 percent. They were followed by See, Mythic Quest, Home Before Dark, Servant, For All Mankind, Central Park, and Little America.

Apple rival Disney+ may have had a big hit with The Mandalorian, which returned at the end of October with its second season, but aside from the one-shot movie Hamilton, Disney's service hasn't had another original hit since.

Analyst Rich Greenfield of Lightshed Management, who covers the streaming media world extensively, said on Twitter in early October that "Apple TV+ has meaningfully outperformed Disney+ in year one in terms of original programming, [especially] programming for anyone over the age of 10. [Eddy Cue] and the Apple TV Plus team do not get enough credit, [especially] with no catalog or history in content production."

In addition, Apple has now formally launched the Apple One bundle, of which Apple TV+ is a part, and has also extended its one-year free trial to February 2021.

What's in the Apple TV+ pipeline?

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert


This fall, in addition to its original shows, Apple has released the A24 collaboration On the Rocks, an acclaimed Bill Murray movie from director Sofia Coppola that's garnered Oscar buzz, and also Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You, an exceptionally well-mounted making-of documentary about The Boss' new album. The latter, which had a tie-in with the new Apple Music TV, shows the potential of what Apple TV+ can do with music-oriented programming.

The good news for Apple TV+ has also come from announcements about future projects and talent deals. Throughout the summer and fall, seemingly not a week has gone by without Apple announcing a major deal of some kind.

Apple has acquired some movies that had been slated for theatrical releases pre-pandemic, most notably Tom Hanks' Greyhound, while it also landed Emancipation, a historical thriller with Will Smith that's set to arrive in 2021.

Apple landed Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese's next film, back in May, and announced a separate first-look deal with Scorsese's production company in August.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, of
Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, of "Killers of the Flower Moon"


The many-time Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus, A-list movie star Leonardo DiCaprio, and the acclaimed actor Idris Elba are among other huge names who have signed productions deals with Apple this year. Apple also recently signed up movie stars Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne to star in a comedy series called Platonic.

Then, at the end of October, Apple announced that it will host Jon Stewart's TV comeback, signing a deal to produce a current events series hosted by the former Daily Show host, as well as other shows Stewart will produce. If Stewart, with his new show, can capture the zeitgeist at anywhere near the level he did back in his Comedy Central days, that's big news for Apple.

Apple's penchant for talent-friendliness can have its pitfalls. Its documentary series Dear was essentially about famous people being told by fans how awesome they are, in a way that wasn't the slightest bit entertaining or illuminating. Some shows, like Amazing Stories with Steven Spielberg and Little Voice with J.J. Abrams, invoked a particular big name in their marketing, while those people ended up having little to do with the series creatively.

But clearly, Apple has money to wave at creators. There's no reason to think these big-name talent deals won't continue, and it also appears those creators have gotten some freedom.

There were fears around the time of Apple TV+'s launch that it would avoid controversial or adult content, or amount to an "expensive NBC," as was reportedly joked about internally.

The shows, so far, have included some amounts of violence and sexuality, and with projects on the way from the likes of Martin Scorsese and Seth Rogen, there's likely more of that on the way. While a least a couple of shows have seen showrunners replaced, including The Morning Show, there have been no stories reported from behind the scenes suggesting Apple was heavy-handed with its influence in the executive suite when it comes to content.

Filling things out

Apple TV+'s
Apple TV+'s "Long Way Up"


A major knock on Apple TV+ when it launched was that it offered subscribers so much less than its rivals did. While Disney+ had the back catalogs of Disney animation, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and more available at launch, Apple TV+ had only its handful of originals. The newer services, especially HBO Max, have also arrived with massive back catalogs of classic movies.

A year on, that's started to change. There is, of course, more original content from Apple that's been added over time. There were also reports in May that Apple had begun talks to add older back catalog content to the service.

There's been no major move in that regard yet, although when Apple debuted the Ewan McGregor docuseries Long Way Up, it also obtained the rights to the two previous seasons of the series, which had been produced elsewhere. This also happened with Apple's recent deal for the rights to the Peanuts holiday specials.

The potential for additional catalog content is something to watch for Apple TV+ as it enters Year 2.

Apple doesn't have to depend on Apple TV+

Disney+
Disney+


Despite the catalog deficit, there is one big advantage Apple has over several of its streaming counterparts, such as Disney+, HBO Max and Peacock, one that's become especially clear of late. Apple's future, as a company, doesn't depend in any way on its streaming service's success.

Whether caused by the pandemic or longer-term troubles, many of Apple TV+'s rivals have their core businesses collapsing around them and need to lean on streaming to promise themselves a future.

Disney recently announced a reorganization meant to reorient their entire company around its streaming strategy. AT&T is clearly depending heavily on the success of HBO Max. Comcast, owner of Peacock, is losing cable subscribers at a significant rate.

Apple, on the other hand, has core businesses that are doing much better. It doesn't own theme parks, a movie studio, a cable or satellite business, or other such declining assets. Therefore, Apple isn't in a position where it has to use Apple TV+ to paper over failures in other areas of its business.

In addition, as evidenced by that yearlong spree of production deals, Apple doesn't appear to be holding back on spending when it comes to Apple TV+.

Apple TV+: Year 2

Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson on Apple TV+'s
Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson on Apple TV+'s "Dickinson"


While production was delayed for several months on most Apple TV+ shows, many of them are back before the cameras. Dickinson will debut its second season in January, with The Morning Show and other launch shows likely to return at some point in 2021.

Most of the first batch of shows were renewed by Apple, with other big series, such the high-budget adaption of Isaac Asimov's Foundation and the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg-produced Masters of the Air, are also on the way in year 2, with the latter getting production underway in the spring.

Apple TV+ hasn't yet matched, say, Netflix when it comes to audience size or cultural ubiquity. But there's no doubt, after one year, that the service is ahead of where Netflix was a year after it launched its streaming service.

From popular shows to talent deals to a robust pipeline, every indication is that its future is bright. And, even if the near-term is dim, Apple has the patience and wherewithal to wait out the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    Always thought that TV+ was a complete waste of money for Apple, still do, but given the mountain of cash Apple is sitting on it’s only a minor waste of money.
    kkqd1337
  • Reply 2 of 39
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 611member
    Apple TV fills the needs of middle class families with teenage kids. Call it an expensive NBC, it’s my go to channel for the two or so nights a week we all sit in front of the TV together. Shows like Ted Lasso, Trying, Servant, and Defending Jacob are an excellent mix of family shows without being condescending to any age group. Netflix is churning out too much mass production without much thought; and Disney... well they only have one show, and HBO is not available internationally yet. Back catalogue is overrated: let Netflix play that game and focus on good original content. The best apps for that are now Apple TV+ and BBC iPlayer. 
    george kaplanlolliverbshank
  • Reply 3 of 39
    cg27cg27 Posts: 108member
    Apple TV+ should have a “channel” that is a pseudo YouTube and Sundance Film Festival for anything shot and edited on Apple products.  They’d have a lot of submissions (for free) with very unique stories.  I’m tired of over polished turds from big Hollywood names that aren’t that creative or inspiring, but merely have high production values.  I’d much rather see fresh material and take my chances and skip through a bunch of stuff.  Plus a Rotten Tomatoes like rating system would help.  It would be fun.  It would allow Apple to nurture the next generation of Kubricks.  And it would give Apple an edgy, risk taking vibe.
    Beatswilliamh
  • Reply 4 of 39
    Apple still needs to fill out their library to compete with every other subscription service. They should buy Sony Pictures, MGM, Lionsgate or ViacomCBS, or carry out a hostile takeover of AT&T or WarnerMedia. Apple has the cash and could do it.
    edited October 2020
  • Reply 5 of 39
    Love Ted Lasso. Best thing Jason Sudeikis has ever done. I’m still on the free year after buying a refurbished Apple TV 4K on eBay after HBO stopped supporting the 3rd generation model. But I’ve already decided to renew annually every year for only $49.99 next June. It’s a bargain.
    edited October 2020 george kaplanlolliverbshankdewme
  • Reply 6 of 39
    CarmBCarmB Posts: 36member
    Having legacy titles is way overrated. Many already own a lot of those titles outright and/or have already watched them. What is of interest is fresh original content. It has to be kept in mind that if you acquire a deep back catalogue it means charging more for the resulting service. As a result you are forcing subscribers to pay monthly for content they are highly likely to not have a use for. A service featuring original content works fine if you price it accordingly. Instead of choosing between Apple TV + and some other streaming service, at the current pricing level, Apple TV + stands up as a good value well worth adding onto whatever else one subscribes to. As Apple continues to produce original content, it will build up a decent catalogue of worthwhile titles. Maybe five or six decent series and a handful of films might be rather sparse, but if that number goes up to 15, 20 series and a broader collection of films, now you have a service with some depth to it. And if Apple holds the line on pricing by resisting the urge to pad the service with volume over quality, the perceived value of the service will only improve in subsequent years. 

    Let other services like Netflix go the way of providing a ton of content of wildly varied quality for ever increasing monthly fees. With the latest Netflix price hike, I have decided that I can’t afford to carry Netflix year round. I can subscribe for only a few months out of the year and still watch what I want. On the other hand, Apple’s pricing is still reasonable enough to justify year-round subscription, especially since there is an option to pay less for an annual subscription. Here in Canada, Amazon Prime also makes sense as an annual service since we still pay less than in the US.

    All along I have been hoping Apple does not add a back catalogue from a third party because I don’t need it and don’t wish to pay for it. If Apple does add a library of titles from a third party, I’d rather it be offered for an additional fee, leaving Apple TV+ original content as a standalone option. There’s a high probability many would simply not pay more for the expanded service, which is why no other streaming service has tried that model. The take-up rate would be so low, recouping costs would be tough. 
    lolliverbshank
  • Reply 7 of 39
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,626member
    It's been a pretty good year 1. However the John Stewart idea isn't going to work. He is both old hat and more importantly this kind of content rarely works on streaming services and if it does it dates quickly. 

    Apple TV also needs more non English language programs. Many series like Dark on Netlflix ( Germany) have universal appeal. 
    entropys
  • Reply 8 of 39
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,112member
    cg27 said:
    Apple TV+ should have a “channel” that is a pseudo YouTube and Sundance Film Festival for anything shot and edited on Apple products.  They’d have a lot of submissions (for free) with very unique stories.  I’m tired of over polished turds from big Hollywood names that aren’t that creative or inspiring, but merely have high production values.  I’d much rather see fresh material and take my chances and skip through a bunch of stuff.  Plus a Rotten Tomatoes like rating system would help.  It would be fun.  It would allow Apple to nurture the next generation of Kubricks.  And it would give Apple an edgy, risk taking vibe.
    Call it "Shot on iPhone".

    What a beautiful idea. I had a similar idea for News+.
  • Reply 9 of 39
    jccjcc Posts: 287member
    Many of the Apple shows suck. That’s a problem.
    xyzzy01SpamSandwichchemengin1
  • Reply 10 of 39
    flydogflydog Posts: 926member
    The premise of this article is that AppleTV+ is “on an upswing,” but the only evidence it offers in support is the fact that it has shows “in the pipeline,” even going so far as to admit there are no “official” ratings to measure it’s success. 






    xyzzy01
  • Reply 11 of 39
    cg27cg27 Posts: 108member
    jcc said:
    Many of the Apple shows suck. That’s a problem.
    Exactly.  Seems they’re trying to appeal to everyone by not offending anyone.  Too tame, too PC, and too Hollywood.  Even the first person on Mars was going to be Chinese (gee I wonder if Apple was going for some brownie points despite China copying all the western tech) until, all too politically correct, it ends up being a group photo of all the first landers.  Warm fuzzies.  No wonder that show got canceled.

    Trying to be like Disney, which has no appeal to me or anyone I know unless they have young kids.  Even my 12 year old son doesn’t care for Marvel superheroes, Star Wars, or any of that other homogenized happy ending stuff Disney is peddling.  So hopefully Apple is not going that route.

    And that Sofia Coppola movie was complete crap.  Talk about nepotism.

    Think Different?
    chemengin1JazzMonkey
  • Reply 12 of 39
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,106member
    Apple TV+ could have been really bad, and some of it was, but some shows were good. Ted Lasso was great. For all Mankind was very good, and should get better as more fictional technology arrives. But the latest release, Tehran, was the best spy drama I've ever seen. And its last episode was filled with gorgeous, exciting twists. I can't wait for more. And it wasn't ridiculous like Jason Bourne. The city of Tehran is a really great setting for a spy drama. Tehran is more novel and exciting than the usual "Moscow" setting. I used Google Earth to find as many of the outdoor locations as I could. Interestingly, Google Earth's Street View blocks/censors some of the "spy buildings" shown in that show, so the locations are probably accurate! That was a nice touch.

    Nobody expects a media production company to have only strings of hits. Apple has done okay for a first year. I don't know if they will score a hit with Foundation next year, but that book is one of the greatest untapped novel series in history, you could even call it "the original Star Wars," so they probably will do well. Several elements of Star Wars were copied from that book, (so Disney cannot sue Apple for plagiarism) but Isaac Asimov had no interest in suing. I hope Apple has the full rights for all the future spin-offs for Foundation, like Disney is doing with Star Wars right now. I think the Foundation book sequels were the only books of Asimov's to get on the New York Times bestseller list.
    bshank
  • Reply 13 of 39
    22july2013 said:
    Tehran is more novel and exciting than the usual "Moscow" setting. I used Google Earth to find as many of the outdoor locations as I could. Interestingly, Google Earth's Street View blocks/censors some of the "spy buildings" shown in that show, so the locations are probably accurate! That was a nice touch.
    While I do agree that Tehran is more novel and exciting, I do have to point out that almost all of the series was shot in Athens, Greece.
  • Reply 14 of 39
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,106member
    kolvas said:
    22july2013 said:
    Tehran is more novel and exciting than the usual "Moscow" setting. I used Google Earth to find as many of the outdoor locations as I could. Interestingly, Google Earth's Street View blocks/censors some of the "spy buildings" shown in that show, so the locations are probably accurate! That was a nice touch.
    While I do agree that Tehran is more novel and exciting, I do have to point out that almost all of the series was shot in Athens, Greece.
    Except for the many scenes shot in Israel. I found many locations in Israel using Google Earth. I'm very good at using Google Earth to find where street images were made.

    I don't think anyone expects that the scenes meant to represent Iran were actually filmed in Iran. Obviously Iran would not allow Israeli actors and Israeli media companies to work and film anything in Iran, let alone a spy drama that might make them look bad. Iran has a dictatorship leadership filled with racists, so they would not allow that.
    edited November 2020 ikir
  • Reply 15 of 39
    Can't stop watching Ted Lasso.  Even piqued my interest in Soccer(football).
    bshank
  • Reply 16 of 39
    Apple TV+ has been a major disappointment so far. Granted, I haven't paid anything for it (directly, at least) so far - and if I had to, it would be dropped in a heartbeat. Mythic Quest was a fun, but that's about it.

    Of the future pipeline, the only thing that's got me excited is the deal with Jon Stewart. The rest is just "OK, let's see what it pans out into". Content wise - and back catalog wise - Apple TV+ has nothing on Netflix, HBO or Amazon Prime.

    I think Apple TV+ will grow, though - and the main reason for that is Apple One. Bundled, it stays sort of free - and not only for those of us who bought Apple hardware last year and got Apple TV+ included.
  • Reply 17 of 39
    Apple still needs to fill out their library to compete with every other subscription service. They should buy Sony Pictures, MGM, Lionsgate or ViacomCBS, or carry out a hostile takeover of AT&T or WarnerMedia. Apple has the cash and could do it.
    Nah. Apple’s not interested in filling out their library with a back catalogue. Apple plays long games, very long games. Think 10-15 years. 
    bshank
  • Reply 18 of 39
    The service will grow, simply because it is part of a bundle now. I think it has been held back because Apple didn’t want to be seen as favoring their content. We dumped Netflix last year because they kept increasing the prices. It isn’t healthy to sit around endlessly watching programs, so having a ton of stuff isn’t important to us. I have enjoyed the Peanuts stuff,  Amazing Stories, and Ghost Writer. 
    sflagel
  • Reply 19 of 39
    CarmBCarmB Posts: 36member
    No surprise that some are simply dismissive of what has been offered so far. It’s the way it is in today’s society. Dismissiveness is thought to suggest a higher standard but it isn’t necessarily so. Sometimes, if something with merit is dismissed with obvious contempt it’s merely posturing. Not especially valuable and it’s simply inevitable, sadly, in today’s internet environment. I find that it happens with non-professional product reviews, for example. If one were to seek out any product that receives universal approval, it would be a futile search. Even the best items have a percentage of reviews declaring said product awful. With all due respect, I’ve learned to tune that out. If something is genuinely bad, the criticism is more widespread and surpasses the positive response. 

    It’s not possible, in any case, to appeal to everyone since one man’s gold is another man’s, well, you know. I don’t think this service can be judged based on how its doing in the first year, especially considering it has been a year complicated by COVID. It will be far more valid to take stock two, three, four years into this process. More feedback, a bigger catalogue, and so on. 

    My hope is that what Apple will do is resist the temptation to raise the price if the service does become popular. Keep the price low and stick with original programming. If that programming has a broad enough appeal, the cost of producing it will be more than covered by the revenue Apple can potentially generate with enough subscribers. Others are delivering volume and with so much available these days, there is no shortage of programming. Appealing original programming is more valuable than sheer legacy volume. Some enjoy repeat viewings of programs they enjoy. Others, myself included, prefer to seek out fresh content. Apple is useless to me if it ends up flush with legacy titles aimed at justifying a higher price. Lots of other providers like Netflix and Disney Plus have that covered. 
    bshank
  • Reply 20 of 39
    mr lizard said:
    Apple still needs to fill out their library to compete with every other subscription service. They should buy Sony Pictures, MGM, Lionsgate or ViacomCBS, or carry out a hostile takeover of AT&T or WarnerMedia. Apple has the cash and could do it.
    Nah. Apple’s not interested in filling out their library with a back catalogue. Apple plays long games, very long games. Think 10-15 years. 
    Time to fill out their offerings NOW so they can grow their audience LATER. You don’t get subscribers TODAY without parity.
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