The core element of a streaming service is basically set in stone — have compelling things to watch and be able to play them wherever you are — but there is scope for differentiation beyond the basic premise of a video repository. At the highest level, there’s the way that the app chooses to present its content, help the user keep up with their favourite shows and discover more TV. This is obviously something that Netflix has perfected and something that the Apple TV app does very poorly right now.
You can also stand out with features like the X-Ray mode in Amazon Prime Video, a modernised version of the cast and crew list that can tell you who that actor is on the screen right now. It’s cool. Over time, I hope all the streaming services pay more attention to extras like this, and that includes a much wider bonus content offering.
Apple is in a theoretically strong position to do this. In addition to things like set tours, bloopers and commentary tracks, Apple could pair the shows with behind-the-scenes podcasts, music playlists and the like. In fact, they are already making Apple Music soundtrack playlists but basically no one knows that they exist because they aren’t linked to or advertised in the TV app at all. You have to manually trawl through Apple Music to find them.
A lot of stuff in this arena is just tying up loose ends of existing produced material. For example, in a recent set of ads, Apple commissioned artists to make concept posters for some of its titles. However, Apple hasn’t actually used the posters anywhere but the ads showing them being made. What a waste. Wouldn’t it be great if you could see those posters beneath the show in the actual TV app? What if you could tap on them and set them as your wallpaper?
Apple has marketing teams running social media for its flagship series like The Morning Show, and these accounts have posted many soundbite interviews with showrunners, cast and crew members over the last few months. All of these are essentially lost to time in the endless scroll of Instagram and Twitter feeds. This kind of table stakes stuff should be easily accessible from within the TV app itself.
In the March unveiling of Apple TV+, Apple’s Jamie Erlicht said “this is not just another streaming service”. To date, Apple has not delivered anything unique to really back that up. The first priority for them should be to fix the badly-made application, but that’s all just catch up to meet the status quo. Beyond that, extras and bonus content could be a way for Apple TV+ to stand out. They have the means.