Can Apple TV + Make It?

T-Mobile will provide a new base of viewers for Apple TV+ with a partnership that will allow customers to get the streaming service for free. But whether they will take advantage of the service will depend solely on Apple. Since its launch, Apple TV+ has produced little programming that has caught the imagination of viewers, despite some star-studded backing.

Ted Lasso has created buzz lately. The comedy fronted by comedy everyman, Jason Sudeikis has been a feel-good story for the streamer. But little else has truly stuck. For All Mankind has polish and critical acclaim but it has yet to power enthusiasm and subscribers to the service. Apple TV + trails every other major streaming service in subscribers including others who launched during the same period and since. Though it did outlast Quibi.

The trouble with Apple TV+ may well be its reliance on original content and its lack of it. While Netflix may have a reputation for punching out more forgettable shows than hits, its approach allows it to have enough content on its own to keep viewers checking in to see what’s new. But combined with its still huge library of content from multiple other studios Netflix has thousands of titles to offer and keep people streaming. Disney has a different approach built around its libraries of popular franchises, legacy programming, and a rolling schedule of tentpole programming starting with The Mandelorien, and following up with a string of hits based on the MCU. HBO Max also got on the scene with a substantial library available from the start comprised of decades of original HBO programming, studio contracts, new originals lined up and shows from TNT, TBS, and even high profile deals for shows like The Big Bang Theory.

Meanwhile, Apple TV + has banked almost purely on enticing viewers with never before seen or heard of projects and nothing else. It is an open question as to how many people would have the service if they didn’t automatically qualify for a year of it with the purchase of an Apple product. And it should be noted that Apple extended that offer to keep people watching.

Apple TV + would not exist if it wasn’t Backed By Apple

For just a second imagine that Apple TV + was called Super TV Plus. And imagine that is was the brainchild of a TV executive and a former computer company CEO. Imagine it was going to launch exclusively on Apple products at the beginning and work its way onto other streaming platforms over time. And imagine that it had 15-20 original series to start with but no recognizable content to start with…..Now imagine that it is not Quibi. I bet you can’t. In fact if I switched 10 Apple TV + shows for Quibi shows you would not be able to tell me which ones were in the wrong place. Real Quick Black Balled and 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything. One is about the LA Clippers in the wake of its owner’s race scandal. One is about the music scene in… ok I doubt I have to spell it out for you further than that. So which well-made and insightful documentary is from which service? One is now available for free on the Roku channel and one is still behind a paywall. This is not meant to impune the quality of either production. But the thing is that 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything did not move the needle for Apple TV +. Now on the other hand look at the response, Netflix got from Manifest which jumped into its top 5 for weeks after it was announced that the show was canceled. Or consider that Stranger Things has made Milly Boby Brown and David Harbour into household names and revived the career of Marisa Tomei. Who can say that if it wasn’t for that stint on Apple TV + they would not have landed a role in the latest Marvel movie?

Should Apple stay in its lane?

Apple TV+ is the only paid streaming service that is not built on the back of established TV brands. Netflix got a pass because it was first. Amazon was essentially a founding father of the premium streaming game. But Hulu, HBO Max, CBS All Access/Paramount+, Disney+, and even Peacock came to streaming in a lateral move. They had studios, they knew how to make new shows, they had iconic programming to draw in an audience. Apple is an innovative technology company that makes some of the best devices on the market by far. But that did not help Microsoft studios or Sony PlayStation Vue. Google has gotten away with jumping in the deep end with the launch of YouTube TV and its own branded smart TV OS, but even at that, it failed with YouTube originals.

If Apple continues to pump out new content for the next 5 years you will be able to call be stunned. If on the other hand if Ted Lasso or See find their way onto Netflix as originals I will be quite a bit less shocked.