The Pace Of Apple TV+

If you take interest in Apple — as in Apple the company — like I do, then you have to care about Apple TV+. As much as some people might want it to be, TV+ is not a side project or distraction. It’s not like iBooks textbooks or iWork in iCloud.com. Over the last two years, Apple set up a dedicated video division and they mean business. Just this week, news broke that Apple is spending an estimated $100 million on the production of a single film. Apple’s overall (and ongoing) financial investment in TV+ content must surely eclipse the budgets of many of its hardware projects.

You can not care about television, or not be interested in the shows Apple is making. But if you care about the machinations of Apple, then television programming is a fascinating venture to follow. In particular, one aspect that has piqued my curiosity is the pace of Apple’s content rollout. Looking beyond the launch, Apple hasn’t really shown us anything of what it has coming in the pipeline apart from quick glimpses as part of a one-minute Apple TV+ sizzle reel.

The M. Night Shyamalan production "Servant" debuts on Thanksgiving, November 28th.

Today, Apple announced that its “Truth Be Told” drama will be available from December 6th. With that date now out there, we can know work out how much maximum runway Apple has with the launch lineup, as listed on tv.apple.com.

The company revealed in its September press release that most shows will be released according to the following schedule: three episodes upfront, with the remaining episodes of the season on a weekly cadence.

Apple’s television projects have between 10-12 episodes per season. If you take December 6th as the latest possible starting point, then Apple will exhaust its entire cache of TV+ launch content … by the end of January. Even in regard to TV+ movies, “The Elephant Queen” is available on November 1st and “Hala” is coming in December. “The Banker” will follow in January, and Apple hasn’t said anything about any other films so far.

You can laugh at the fact TV+ only has a dozen different franchises, but that’s the state of the game right now. It’s not like Apple is going to be sit on the launch catalogue for a year. They can’t. Almost all of the launch lineup will have ended before 2020 starts, and we don’t expect to see the next seasons of those shows start for the good part of a year.

To keep to Apple’s promise of new content every month, in the most pessimistic case of every show being on the gradual one-a-week schedule, Apple will have at least doubled the number of available shows by March. Throw in three or four movies too.

What shows are these going to be? We don’t really know. This Wikipedia page lists all known Apple commissions, but it’s not clear which of them are in the can and ready to go. “Little America” is the only one I know of that is close to being released; that’s the anthology series produced by Kumail Nanjiani which Apple talked about at the March event.

Furthermore, the aforementioned press statement also says that some shows will drop an entire season of episodes at once, binge-style. Naturally, Apple’s need to put out new shows quicker accelerates for every show that is released in that manner. I had assumed that clause was referring to mostly kids content, like the Snoopy cartoon or “Helpsters”. It turns out that some of Apple’s premier shows are also adopting that strategy. Hailee Steinfeld recently revealed to Jimmy Fallon that “Dickinson” will be one such case, all 10 episodes available on November 1st. (Apple has been running broadcast and social media adverts for “Dickinson” like it’s no tomorrow.)

This whole thing is a whirlwind and I can’t wait to try out the service and watch how it grows. Maybe Apple’s first ten shows will all be terrible and a miserable flop. As calculated above, it’ll only be a handful of months before we can reassess with an as-yet-unknown lineup of a dozen TV+ original series.