Has Apple got a hope in hell of pipping Netflix?
Apple plans to spend $1-billion on TV and movies in 2018, rising to $4.2-billion within four years
Apple is ramping up its original content (TV programmes as they were known in antediluvian days) and it’s hard not to conclude that the corporation has nothing short of world domination on its mind.
Apple’s expected move into television and movies is part of a wider strategy announced by Tim Cook to double revenue from its “services” business by 2020.
Apple plans to spend $1-billion on original programming in 2018, rising to $4.2-billion within four years (and excluding investment in other “service” channels such as music streaming and the App Store).
Across Hollywood there are reports of top talent being poached as Apple lays the groundwork for over 20 original shows.
The slate is said to include a Steven Spielberg science fiction anthology, Amazing Stories, and a Reese Witherspoon workplace drama set in the backstabbing work of morning television, with Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston starring (the working title is Top of the Morning). When and how these shows will be unveiled remains a matter of conjecture, though insiders say a March 2019 launch isn’t implausible.Apple has also struck a multi-year deal with Oprah Winfrey to create “original programmes that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world”. It is also planning a documentary about Ed Sheeran (directed by Ed Sheeran’s cousin) and has secured the rights to an adaptation of Isaac Asimov sprawling sci-fi saga Foundation, with Dark Knight producer David Goyer in charge.
That’s just the beginning of what sounds less like a roll-out than a full-scale declaration of war.
M Night Shyamalan is to direct the first episode of an as yet unnamed psychological thriller, JJ Abrams is producing a “dramedy” called Little Voices, and Apple is seeking to acquire exclusive distribution for movies from Oscar-nominated Cartoon Saloon, the revered Japanese animators.Plus, the company has ordered a brace of children’s shows from the creators of Sesame Street, is plotting a space opera from Battlestar Galactica/Outlander creator Ronald D Moore and has struck a deal with La La Land director Damien Chazelle.The revolution has arguably already began. The company’s two existing forays into original programming – James Corden’s inspiring/annoying Carpool Karaoke and the dead on arrival Planet of the Apps reality show (a Silicon Valley Dragons Den – only absolutely terrible) are currently streamed via its Apple Music service.The latter, it is true, serves as a chilling lesson on what happens when the tech industry tries to laugh at itself. Carpool Karaoke, by contrast, has become an essential shop window for the music industry, with everyone from Britney Spears to Paul McCartney clambering beside Corden keen to show what great sports they are.
The sense in Hollywood is that Apple Music is the wrong platform via which to distribute TV shows. But Apple Music has 30 million subscribers in the US, where it is set to eclipse Spotify’s user-base. Could Apple leverage that built-in audience to give it a leg-up as it tries to outflank the more established Netflix? What about the estimated 85 million iPhones in circulation? By delivering content straight to iPhone users, it could cancel out much of Netflix’s competitive advantage in one fell click.
The fact is nobody has a firm understanding of what the strategy is – apart from super-secretive Apple, whose own employees are informed of future plans on a strictly need-to-know basis (one of the reasons Steve Jobs could spring the revolutionary first generation iPhone upon an unsuspecting world in 2007).As the first smartphone, the iPhone changed the way we interact with technology/hastened our transformation into screen-addicted zombies (delete according to your pessimism regarding the future of humanity).
Would an Apple TV service have the same revolutionary impact? With Apple, nothing can be ruled out. The slightly boring truth is that initially the roll-out of Apple TV probably won't change much. For all the billions it is sinking into drama, comedy, etc, it will continue to snap at the heels of Netflix and Spotify, which are cumulatively ploughing over $12-million into new programming in 2018. Netflix alone is planning to release 700 original shows this year.
- © The Daily Telegraph..