Apple TV+ Finally Getting Some Love And Attention From Its Owner


Tucked amid the rapid-fire volleys of announcements this week at Apple’s kickoff event at the World Wide Developers Conference were glimmers of regard for that most overlooked of the tech giant’s recent ventures, the streaming-video service TV+.

On display among WWDC’s 105 minutes of talk about enhanced privacy controls, new operating systems, and a tectonic shift to home-brew silicon was a trailer for Foundation
FFWM
,
a show that won’t even arrive until sometime next year.

Technically, what Apple showed is billed as a “teaser,” that only-in-Hollywood term for what is essentially a trailer for a trailer. We’ll presumably see a full trailer in a few months, as production continues and marketers have more to work with.

The series is based on Isaac Asimov’s beloved Foundation books. The original group of stories and novels were first collected into a trilogy in 1951. Together, they are among the most feted work in science-fiction history, even winning a special Hugo Award in the 1960s as the best science-fiction series of all time.

The astonishingly prolific Asimov later pumped out four additional prequels and sequels, bracketing the events in the original three. The first of those, Foundation’s Edge, proved a bestseller too and won the series’ fourth Hugo.

Apple’s take on the books is a 10-part series that stars Cassian Bilton, Laura Birn and Jared Harris, along with Terrence Mann and Lee Pace. Executive producers include Hollywood heavyweights David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel) and David Ellison (Star Trek Beyond, Annhilation). The teaser says the sleek and dystopian series will arrive in “2021.”

All of which made using the WWDC a slightly surprising venue with which to debut a TV+ trailer.

The sprawling conference – its kickoff event virtual and pre-recorded for the first time – focuses on the needs of Apple’s third-party developer community, whose members are there to learn about the company’s next generation of operating systems and other new software and hardware. 

Spotlighting consumer programming at WWDC therefore seems an odd choice, especially for a show that won’t arrive until months after all the rest of the conference’s big announcements are in place.

Perhaps Apple was just juicing up what actually is a prime consumer target, the developers themselves.

After all, Foundation’s hero, the mathematician and “psychohistorian” Hari Seldon, is basically what we now call a data scientist, though at an extraordinary level. He’s one of science fiction’s geek uber gods, a man whose understanding of mass trends allows him to predict the collapse of a galactic empire, a coming Dark Age, and the Empire’s eventual rebuilding. A bunch of developers might indeed be really excited to see the show.

More to the point, running the trailer signals the series’ production is back on track, and that Apple is still substantially invested in TV+, certainly enough to talk about both the expensive show and the equally expensive streaming service in other parts of its operations.

It’s not the only bread crumb that Apple is dropping these days on behalf of TV+ either. Yes, the service has been largely eclipsed by competitors in much of the first eight months since its Nov. 1 launch.

In particular, Disney+, which debuted less than two weeks after TV+, now has more than 50 million subscribers, boosted by millions of desperate parents locked down with their families because Covid-19 lockdown.

By contrast, TV+ subscriptions are reportedly in the 34-million range, and many of those one-year giveaways tied to the purchase of Apple hardware, according to a year-end analysis by Ampere. Tellingly, Apple itself hasn’t said much of anything about viewership.

TV+’s quiet spring comes despite the challenges hamstringing most of the other new big services, including the pillow-soft launch of Comcast
CMCSA
’s Peacock, Quibi’s relentless botches, HBO Max’s brand confusions (and absence from Amazon and Roku), and ViacomCBS’ slow-developing plans to beef up the underpowered CBS All Access.

Consider that a missed opportunity, caused in part by the relatively thin library of about three-dozen movies, series, non-fiction shows and documentaries, all originals. When locked-down audiences went looking for things to watch, Apple had little to offer, at least not for long.

Lightshed Partners analyst Rich Greenfield cursorily dismissed TV+ as “niche,” even as he speculated recently about what a “ViacomCBS All Access” might look like as a “four-quadrant” service possibly featuring live sports and news.

Of course, the biggest way to show love for your corporate venture is with that mother’s milk of possibility, money. Apple has reportedly spent around $6 billion on content for its programs (still a pittance compared to Netflix or Disney, or even Apple’s own $150 billion cash hoard). Now, Cupertino is finding other ways to demonstrate just how much it cares.

It’s begun TV advertising for Greyhound, the WWII naval thriller starring, written and directed by Tom Hanks. Apple picked up the film from Sony for $70 million in a reputedly hot bidding war a few weeks ago, and will debut it in mid-July. 

Apple is also running Emmy For Your Consideration campaigns for at least two of its shows, including the closest thing it has had to a pop-culture breakout: The Morning Show, featuring Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carrell, Jennifer Aniston and Billy Crudup. 

The expensive series, set in a morning news show undergoing a Matt Lauer-like #MeToo scandal, already picked up a SAG Award amid a few other bits of iron during the Oscar season last winter. Now, it has a modest chance to grab more love during Emmy season. 

There’s also a modest FYC campaign for Dickinson, a coming-of-age story starring Halee Steinfeld as the young poet-to-be Emily Dickinson. It too grabbed a bit of pop cultural and critical love, though it’s been long superseded in that audience sector’s collective mind by shows such as Hulu’s Normal People and Netflix
NFLX
’s 13 Reasons Why and Outer Banks.

Finally, alongside the Greyhound acquisition, Apple reportedly is licensing other catalog content from third-party providers, apparent recognition amid the pandemic’s viewing demands and growing competition that TV+ needed more stuff. 

So, Apple is sprinkling bread crumbs that suggest TV+ isn’t going anywhere, and might actually get better. Now comes the hard part, getting audiences drowning in other video options to care.



Source link