On its second anniversary, Apple TV+ is in a good place

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in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
One massive hit, a handful of smaller ones, and a promising 2022 slate signal good things are in store for the Apple TV+ streaming service.

Some current AppleTV+ shows
Some current AppleTV+ shows


Before it launched on November 1, 2019, there was skepticism from various quarters about the prospects of the Apple TV+ streaming service. Some questioned what Apple knew about producing TV shows, while a scathing piece in Gizmodo denounced the service as "expensive NBC."

Two years after its launch, Apple TV+ appears to be in a strong position. While it still almost certainly trails Netflix when it comes to eyeballs, Apple's streaming service has one big hit, several other smaller ones, and it has won lots of awards.

It has also succeeded in forming strong relationships with top-level talent both in front of and behind the camera and is set to ramp up the volume of its offerings in the coming year.

In addition, in contrast with its competitors, Apple TV+ has avoided behind-the-scenes turmoil and bad press. And unlike several of the other streaming services with which it competes, the future of Apple as a company isn't riding on the success of Apple TV+.

The service is also at little-to-no risk of running out of money or having its parent company lose interest in it. Apple can effectively wait forever for a service or show to see success, if it so chooses.

We don't know anything about what the profit picture is for the service, nor has Apple announced exactly how many subscribers Apple TV+ has or how many of them are still on free trials. CEO Tim Cook said on the company's Q3 earnings call in late October that the service has "already proved itself to fans around the world."

Of course, when it comes to talking about Apple TV+'s successes, the story begins with a certain mustachioed, fish-out-of-water soccer coach.

Ted Talk

Jason Sudeikis as coach Ted Lasso on 'Ted Lasso'
Jason Sudeikis as coach Ted Lasso on 'Ted Lasso'


The massive breakout hit of Apple's first two years wasn't one that anyone was expecting.

Ted Lasso is a TV series adapted from a series of commercials for NBC's English Premier League coverage several years earlier. The show stars ex-Saturday Night Live performer Jason Sudeikis, who had mostly washed out after a run as a movie star, and it dealt with soccer, a sport which American audiences aren't exactly known for embracing.

But Ted Lasso, after it debuted in August of 2020, was embraced wholeheartedly, largely by viewers looking for positivity and optimism in an uncertain time. Many others caught up with the first season leading up to the second season, which aired between July and October of 2021.

More importantly to Apple, Ted Lasso let a lot of people know what Apple TV+ is, and got them in the habit of watching it.

The show's first season collected a truckload of awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and three different acting Emmys for Sudeikis, Brett Goldstein, and Hannah Waddingham. This followed Sudeikis' Golden Globe win in January for Best Actor - Television Series Musical or Comedy.

Even though there was something of a critical backlash to the second season of Ted Lasso, audiences still watched it in large numbers. When Nielsen recently added Apple TV+ to its streaming ratings, Ted Lasso ranked fifth, in terms of streaming minutes for the week of September 21-26.

That made it the highest-ranking streaming show that week on any service other than Netflix.

Parrot Analytics, which measures the popularity of streaming shows by demand, listed Ted Lasso as achieving 37.5 times the average show's demand as of the week of October 16-22. That made it the fifth-most popular show among digital originals.

Beyond Richmond

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


The success of Apple TV+ shows doesn't end with Ted Lasso. Parrot, in another report in July, stated that Apple is now "fifth-largest distributor of in-demand digital original series in the world," after Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Hulu.

The report also said that shows like Mythic Quest, Servant, and For All Mankind saw increases in demand between their first and second seasons. All three have been renewed for future seasons.

"Apple TV+'s current slate of programming is growing in demand, and setting itself up to be a necessity one day instead of an option," that firm said in the July report.

While there aren't really universal measures for evaluating streaming audiences, there is evidence that some of Apple TV+'s shows are connecting with audiences.

"Apple's TV platform has established an impressive track record for turning out consistently good -- and sometimes great -- programming for subscribers, despite offering a much, much smaller overall offering compared to the big guys in the space," Vulture reporter Josef Adalian, who covers the streaming world in a newsletter called Buffering, wrote in February.

And Entertainment Weekly reported in early October that The Problem With Jon Stewart was Apple's "most-viewed unscripted programming" to date, beating out Oprah Winfrey.

There's more to come. Apple announced in April that its $430 billion investment will include "dozens of Apple TV+ productions across 20 states, creating thousands of jobs and supporting the creative industry."

In addition, Apple has production deals in place with a long list of well-known entertainers, directors, and producers, some of which have yet to bear fruit.

Some big swings haven't connected

Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon on 'The Morning Show'
Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon on "The Morning Show"


While Ted Lasso certainly captured the zeitgeist, some of Apple's more expensive attempts at doing so haven't quite managed the feat.

The Morning Show was the splashiest show of the service's launch in 2019, as the series brought in a very expensive cast (led by Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell) and set itself in the New York media world. The first season got off to a weak start and didn't get great reviews, although it got better as it went along and ended up getting some awards attention.

The second season debuted in September of 2021, and it's been surprisingly free of buzz. A show set in that milieu would typically count on lots of media coverage from New York media elite types, but most of the writing about the series has focused on just how wild and over-the-top its storylines have been.

It's been getting a fraction of the attention from the chattering classes as Succession, the HBO series that also returned this fall from a long layoff.

Apple's other big splash in the fall of 2021 is Foundation, the long-awaited adaptation of Isaac Asimov's series of novels. Reviews were mixed, mostly praising the show's look while expressing skepticism about the storytelling.

While the series has been renewed for a second season, if the idea was for Foundation to emerge as Apple's answer to Game of Thrones, that clearly hasn't come to pass.

The Hollywood insider newsletter The Ankler, in fact, asked in October if Foundation is "the biggest flop in history."

"Foundation cost something in the range of a zillion dollars and given the public response - again, just eyeballing it - I'm guessing somewhere in the range of zero people paid to watch it," the newsletter said.

The fall season's most popular and talked-about adaptation of a midcentury sci-fi novel previously thought unadaptable has been Warner and HBO's Dune, not Foundation.

Apple has also begun to cancel shows, with Little Voice and Mr. Corman meeting their ends after one season each.

In the streaming game, not everything has to hit. But for Apple, the biggest hits have not been the biggest swings.

Here come the movies

The Tragedy of Macbeth poster (Apple/A24)
The Tragedy of Macbeth poster (Apple/A24)


Apple TV+ has included movies in its offerings nearly since the beginning. It's featured its own, some released as part of its tie-up with A24 like 2020's Boys State and On the Rocks, while also acquiring films from studios that were unloading them during the pandemic.

The later route led to Apple streaming two Tom Hanks movies, namely last year's Greyhound and the upcoming Finch.

This December, Apple will unveil what looks like its first bona fide Best Picture Oscar contender, Joel Coen's The Tragedy of Macbeth, which stars Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. The film will have a theatrical and Apple TV+ release, through the Apple/A24 partnership.

Gene Munster predicted in early 2017 that Apple would "win an Oscar within five years," and Macbeth looks like the best bet to prove him right.

Also in December, Apple is set to debut Swan Song, starring two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali.

And 2022 looks like the year that Apple's movie offerings break through even further. Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon, does not have an announced release date, but it has wrapped filming and will likely arrive at some point in the year.

Expected in Apple TV+'s third year is Kitbag, the movie about Napoleon that's directed by Ridley Scott, and Emancipation, the Will Smith slavery drama.

Each year, Netflix offers a slate of 5 or 6 movies that compete seriously for Oscars, and it's not hard to imagine Apple TV+ equaling that before long.

One place where Apple has particularly excelled is with music documentaries. The first two years have featured creative, innovative documentaries about The Beastie Boys, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, Billie Eilish, and most recently The Velvet Underground, in addition to the ambitious documentary series 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything.

While they're certainly not alone among streaming services in that genre -- HBO Max recently launched a series of its own, called Music Box -- it's a core competency that has emerged for Apple TV+.

A lack of drama

Another area of success for Apple TV+ has been an avoidance of behind-the-scenes turmoil of the type that makes its way into the press.




HBO Max launched in 2020, and a few months later its parent company made the controversial, talent-alienating decision to put the entire 2021 Warner Media theatrical slate of movies on the service. A few months after that, AT&T announced that WarnerMedia itself was being spun off to Discovery.

Netflix, meanwhile, has suffered controversy after controversy in the last two years, from the Cuties imbroglio to the recent protests over jokes about transgender people in Dave Chappelle's most recent comedy special.

Apple TV+ has avoided this type of controversy in its two years. Fears that Apple would exercise a heavy hand over content have largely not come to pass, as have whispers circa 2018 that the streamer would disallow violence or sexuality.

With the exception of a report in late 2020 that Tim Cook had personally killed a proposed show about the late gossip website Gawker, there's been little evidence of Cook, Eddy Cue or other executives doing anything that has alienated creative people in any significant way.

Looking at Year three

Through two years, Apple TV+ hasn't reached critical mass, nor does it appear to have come close to the subscriber numbers of its major competitors. Ted Lasso may be a hit that put the service on the map, but it's likely to be watched by fewer people this year than quite a few Netflix shows.




That said, Apple appears to be doing everything in its power to close that gap. The company has continued to spend money, move further into original content, get into business with top talent, and embrace volume. It has built out its offerings in nature programming, children's shows, and animation.

Other potential additions are also likely, including sports. Multiple reports throughout the fall have indicated that the NFL is interested in Apple becoming the new home of the Sunday Ticket package.

Apple TV+ has certainly not made every right call in its first two years, but "Expensive NBC," it is not.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    I must say I really enjoy Foundation, and also the Morning Show, my favorite series is For all Mankind, though.
    Most of the shows really don’t speak to me (yet), except Ted Lasso, of course!
    george kaplanOferscstrrfStrangeDayswatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 21
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    Not bad for only 2 years and with Covid!

    People were comparing Disney’s almost century-long span of content vs. Apple’s 1st year. How unfair is that?
    williamlondonOferStrangeDaysjas99watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 21
    Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, and For all Mankind are far and away the best they have. Beating almost anything from the big competitors. (Hacks, Watchmen, and The Queen's Gambit* are comparably good). Foundation is very impressive, but I'm distracted by the new Dune on HBOMax, which is a similar level of quality, but also a very similar story. 

    I also like Mythic Quest and Dickinson. Tom Hanks' Greyhound was a good get for them. It's sad that it passed by during the height of the pandemic so quickly. If you have a way to watch it in Dolby Atmos, I highly recommend the action sequences in their full glory.

    I'm not surprised Jon Stewart beat out Oprah. I barely even saw her program even mentioned in the real world.

    *I am still shocked that Queen's Gambit came out on Netflix. Their programming is getting less polished all the time. Boring, really. We cancelled a while back.
    Oferwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 21
    seanboy81 said:
    I must say I really enjoy Foundation, and also the Morning Show, my favorite series is For all Mankind, though.
    Most of the shows really don’t speak to me (yet), except Ted Lasso, of course!
    My take on Foundation is they should have released the first 5 episodes at once because it has taken that long to understand the time jumps, locations and plot threads. I think this is sizing up to be a very effective long-term dramatic story in the way it is presented, but the viewer buy-in is at least 4 episodes and 5 would have been better.  Being able to binge 4 or 5 would have helped tremendously. 
    OferscstrrfStrangeDaysjas99watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 21
    gmulgmul Posts: 3member
    I like the content on AppleTV for the most part. But this weekly release of episodes is not what I am after. If I wanted the old network style TV I would not have gotten rid of my cable. So I will cancel my subscription after a month and after a few months pass I will sign up again for a month so I can binge the shows I like, repeat.
    williamlondonscstrrfwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 21
    gmul said:
    I like the content on AppleTV for the most part. But this weekly release of episodes is not what I am after. If I wanted the old network style TV I would not have gotten rid of my cable. So I will cancel my subscription after a month and after a few months pass I will sign up again for a month so I can binge the shows I like, repeat.
    I don't really think weekly episodes are a huge reason people cut ties with cable. For me the big reason for getting rid of cable is not paying for 500 channels I don't watch and not having to put up with annoying commercials.

    I used to like to binge (and I still do occasionally). But more recently, and especially during the pandemic, I've found that I really enjoy looking forward to new episodes each week. I was also talking to a friend recently about how prior to the binge era style of consuming media, a show had the ability to become a milestone for that particular time in your life. If you spend a day or two binging a season (or multiple seasons) of a show, those stories and characters become easily forgettable. Whereas spending many weeks, months, and after multiple seasons, many years with a show, those stories and characters become part of your life... almost like family. And when shows like that end there is a sadness because it represents the end of an era for you and those characters. You don't get that very much anymore with modern streaming shows. 
    elijahgwilliamlondonStrangeDaysJapheymobirdmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 21
    Spitbath said:
    I used to like to binge (and I still do occasionally). But more recently, and especially during the pandemic, I've found that I really enjoy looking forward to new episodes each week. I was also talking to a friend recently about how prior to the binge era style of consuming media, a show had the ability to become a milestone for that particular time in your life. If you spend a day or two binging a season (or multiple seasons) of a show, those stories and characters become easily forgettable. Whereas spending many weeks, months, and after multiple seasons, many years with a show, those stories and characters become part of your life... almost like family. And when shows like that end there is a sadness because it represents the end of an era for you and those characters. You don't get that very much anymore with modern streaming shows. 
    That's a really keen observation. Thank you for the fresh (for me) perspective.
    Spitbathmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 21
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,779member
    Our favorites ranked:

    • Ted Lasso
    • For All Mankind
    • Losing Alice
    • Mythic Quest
    • The Morning Show
    • Tehran
    • Physical
    • Foundation
    • Servant
    • See
    • Defending Jacob
    • Home Before Dark 

    • Greyhound
    • Palmer
    • Cherry

    edited November 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 21
    gmul said:
    I like the content on AppleTV for the most part. But this weekly release of episodes is not what I am after. If I wanted the old network style TV I would not have gotten rid of my cable. So I will cancel my subscription after a month and after a few months pass I will sign up again for a month so I can binge the shows I like, repeat.
    So, you created an account to just post a single blanket negative comment on an Apple product/service? This would be interesting if I hadn't seen it happen at several Apple blogs including this one before.
    Spitbathwilliamlondonwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 10 of 21
    I count myself as a sceptic, but I have found at least one show that I really like: "See", which has fantastic world building, great acting and a very enjoyable story. This show alone would almost make me consider paying for the service after the free trial runs out. I haven't yet watched "Foundation", but I'm looking forward to that as well as the coming "Invasion". I also found the first episode of Jon Stewart's show interesting. (Burn pits... what a terrible idea.)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 21
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    gmul said:
    I like the content on AppleTV for the most part. But this weekly release of episodes is not what I am after. If I wanted the old network style TV I would not have gotten rid of my cable. So I will cancel my subscription after a month and after a few months pass I will sign up again for a month so I can binge the shows I like, repeat.

    I’m sure if Apple released the entire season in a day you would have binged like you said and then cancelled the service since there’s nothing left to watch.

    After all, that’s what you’re doing anyway but backwards. 
    williamlondonRudeBoyRudywatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 21
    gmul said:
    I like the content on AppleTV for the most part. But this weekly release of episodes is not what I am after. If I wanted the old network style TV I would not have gotten rid of my cable. So I will cancel my subscription after a month and after a few months pass I will sign up again for a month so I can binge the shows I like, repeat.
    HBO and Prime and Showtime etc have all done the same thing. 
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 13 of 21
    Apple TV+ is seriously top notch. If The Morning Show was on Netflix the hype would've have been off the charts; what a great drama series with top actors and performances. Same for For All Mankind.

    Ted Lazzo
    Defending Jacob
    Mythic Quest
    Tehran
    Servant
    The Velvet Undergound
    1971

    etc. etc.

    $4.99 is an easy in (if you're purchase doesn't include a free preview)


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 21
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,766member
    I’m coming up on the end of my free year, which came with my 12 Pro Max last November, and in that time I’ve watched almost everything Apple has released thus far. There’s a couple I still need to check out, like Defending Jacob and Truth, but I’ve mostly enjoyed everything I’ve watched. My list would be similar to StrangeDays, except I would add Dickinson and Trying to the top 7-8. There have been a few disappointments, imo, like Mr. Corman and Lisey’s Story, but I will definitely be renewing for the full year on the 13th anyway. 

    The only thing that bums me out, is that at the rate Apple is supposed to release new content next year, there is no way I will be able to watch all of it. I’m just hoping that the quality I’ve seen so far isn’t diluted by the quantity coming our way. 
    edited November 2021 decoderringwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 21
    I've had a free one-year subscription to Apple TV+ since last December, but I've only just started using it. (I'm not a huge television watcher, so the bit of time I devote to it has gone mostly to Netflix since my partner likes it so much.) I'd watched the first episode of For All Mankind and never got back to it, but Foundation really piqued my interest when it was announced. So I started watching the Earth at Night in Color series and was blown away by the sheer beauty of it and the engaging storytelling. I can't wait to watch the other nature series to see how they are. I also loved the docuseries 1971: The Year that Music Changed Everything and documentary The Velvet Underground.

    I've found the first few episodes of Foundation to be a little underwhelming overall, but the last couple of episodes have been much better. And I really enjoyed the first episode of Invasion and am looking forwarding to continuing.

    I'm going to renew my subscription in December. It also coincides with my retrying Apple Music and really enjoying it with the increased sound quality now that it offers lossless. (That's not to derail the discussion; I clearly hear a difference on my somewhat higher-end equipment, enough so that it makes Apple Music a real winner for me.) So the Apple One package makes sense, especially since I already pay a bit each month for iCloud storage.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 21
    I have opted for the annual subscription for Apple TV+.

    After 2 years:
    Show I thought I'd enjoy and ended up really loving: Mythic Quest.
    Show I thought I'd enjoy but didn't finish watching: Dickenson
    Show I didn't think I'd watch after episode 1, but now watch religiously: The Morning Show
    Show I'm hoping for a second season: Tehran
    Shows I'm currently watching: Foundation and Acapulco
    Show I watched more than once: Ted Lasso

    All in all, there is quite a lot of TV for someone like me who doesn't watch too much TV. I am happy with my subscription.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 21
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,766member
    I've had a free one-year subscription to Apple TV+ since last December, but I've only just started using it. (I'm not a huge television watcher, so the bit of time I devote to it has gone mostly to Netflix since my partner likes it so much.) I'd watched the first episode of For All Mankind and never got back to it, but Foundation really piqued my interest when it was announced. So I started watching the Earth at Night in Color series and was blown away by the sheer beauty of it and the engaging storytelling. I can't wait to watch the other nature series to see how they are. I also loved the docuseries 1971: The Year that Music Changed Everything and documentary The Velvet Underground.

    I've found the first few episodes of Foundation to be a little underwhelming overall, but the last couple of episodes have been much better. And I really enjoyed the first episode of Invasion and am looking forwarding to continuing.

    I'm going to renew my subscription in December. It also coincides with my retrying Apple Music and really enjoying it with the increased sound quality now that it offers lossless. (That's not to derail the discussion; I clearly hear a difference on my somewhat higher-end equipment, enough so that it makes Apple Music a real winner for me.) So the Apple One package makes sense, especially since I already pay a bit each month for iCloud storage.
    If you liked Earth at Night in Color, you have to watch Tiny World next…it’s just as good. I loved the Puma Mountain episode of Earth at Night. And now you’ve got me wanting to watch both of them again. 
    decoderringwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 21
    Appleish said:
    gmul said:
    I like the content on AppleTV for the most part. But this weekly release of episodes is not what I am after. If I wanted the old network style TV I would not have gotten rid of my cable. So I will cancel my subscription after a month and after a few months pass I will sign up again for a month so I can binge the shows I like, repeat.
    So, you created an account to just post a single blanket negative comment on an Apple product/service? This would be interesting if I hadn't seen it happen at several Apple blogs including this one before.
    Yes I did. Does thing kind of thing keep you up at night? I need a first post before I get second. It is tough to start at post 500. 
    williamlondondecoderringwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 21
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 1,266member
    Love the interesting comments and I am enjoying the VU documentary by Tod Haynes and the 1971 music documentary series.  I think the Morning Show is much better than the critics implied as is See.

    After enjoying Tehran, the one thing I think Apple should do is embrace international TV shows.  I suspect more hungry and inventive talent would yield better quality TV for less resources and I think it would be the right approach for a brand that has an international appeal.  I for one would love more Japanese, Korean, etc etc talent on my screen.  Even the recent Russian movie Sputnik tells me there is so much talent out there…it is more likely to yield another Ted Lasso than throwing money at Hollywood has-beens.

    Look at the hype around Squid Game.
    decoderringwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 21
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,766member
    badmonk said:
    Love the interesting comments and I am enjoying the VU documentary by Tod Haynes and the 1971 music documentary series.  I think the Morning Show is much better than the critics implied as is See.

    After enjoying Tehran, the one thing I think Apple should do is embrace international TV shows.  I suspect more hungry and inventive talent would yield better quality TV for less resources and I think it would be the right approach for a brand that has an international appeal.  I for one would love more Japanese, Korean, etc etc talent on my screen.  Even the recent Russian movie Sputnik tells me there is so much talent out there…it is more likely to yield another Ted Lasso than throwing money at Hollywood has-beens.

    Look at the hype around Squid Game.
    I think that is exactly what they are doing. They signed Russian produce Alexander Rodnyansky to a first look deal over the summer…South Korean Dr. Brain starts today…plus Tehran and Losing Alice are both Israeli productions. Plus, Invasion and Acapulco both feature international casts. 
    watto_cobra
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