All Originals On Apple TV+


One shareholder at the annual general meeting in Cupertino asked why that wasn’t an Apple TV+ show. “We love ‘Friends.’ Who doesn’t love ‘Friends’? It’s not what Apple TV+ is about, it’s about original programming,” Cook said. “It doesn’t feel right for Apple to go out and take a rerun. It doesn’t feel like Apple.”

Apple’s messaging on TV+ has been very consistent, new content only, and yet people keep asking them about this or that show, or this studio, as if it is incredulous to think that Apple is not looking for existing content to buy up. I could understand the questioning if there were continuing reports about Apple chasing down franchises, but Hollywood is pretty leaky and it has (basically) been radio silence on that front.

It is certainly true that Apple TV+ is an ‘all originals’ streaming service because the market forced them into that alley. Apple was late to getting its ducks in a row in regards to TV, after flailing for five years with various different proposals for cable subscriptions and skinny bundles, it entered TV just as every network was coming to the realisation that running their own streaming services was more sensible than licensing their content to others. When Apple hired Erlicht and van Amburg in 2017, the opportunities to buy content had all but dried up. So, originals it is.

People keep positing about Apple media acquisitions because they don’t believe a service that doesn’t have a back catalogue can be successful. In the short term, perhaps, but I don’t see what is wrong with Apple’s take if you consider a longer term timescale. Frankly, all streaming services are effectively becoming originals only by default, as every network is taking back their content for their own streaming services. The difference with Apple TV+ is it is literally a blank slate; they have no content to take back. Apple is investing aggressively but building the library simply takes time. There’s no way around it but to launch with little and have the patience — both tactical and financial — to bide your time. Apple has the clout to attract talent and the funds to cover the costs of getting the service off the ground.

TV+ is Apple’s first true loss-leader business, a fascinating phenomenon in itself. They are many years away from profitability. I don’t think they will break even for four years at the very earliest.

Apple TV+ is always going to be a quality over quantity strategy. It’s Apple after all, that’s what they do. They are never, ever, going to have a catalogue size to match Netflix or Disney+. That’s fine, but even so the service has to reach some reasonable threshold of available titles for people to have enough high-quality stuff to watch and stay engaged with. The free year offer is a way to paper over the low show count out the gate. Realistically, Apple are going to have to repeat the offer, or some variant of it, for at least one more year before they have enough shows and movies for TV+ to stand on its own feet.

First and foremost, Apple needs to keep releasing good shows, and do so at a faster pace. I think they should aim to get to the point where they are releasing something new — a new season or a movie — every single week of the year. As the number of renewals and new commissions compounds, this target is actually not too far away. If they continue to ramp up the production schedule at the same rate as they have been in the last six months, they will cross the one-per-week apex in mid-2021.