When we first reviewed the Apple TV+ when it debuted in 2019, we gave it a lower score due to the lack of content. At the time, our reviewer was absolutely right about it. We didn’t know what value Apple would bring to the streaming space, and we couldn’t think of many reasons to recommend the service when other streamers offer it path more content for the same price of $4.99.
Fast forward to 2022. Discovery+ still offers an insane amount of shows for the same price as Apple TV+, but the attributes that make up a large part of this catalog are Peak Content™ (think reality shows, low production series, etc. ). We love a light binge as much as the next person, but little has been done to add value to the platform in the three years since its inception. A shift is on the horizon with the imminent merger of HBO Max and Discovery+, but significant turbulence is coming for Warner Bros. Discovery.
Meanwhile, Apple TV+ has seen significant title growth since its debut in 2019. The streamer still has far less series volume compared to its rivals, but where it wins is in quality. Objectively, it’s hard to find anything badly done on the Apple TV+, whether or not the movie or series suits your personal taste. Apple has also made a point of ensuring its story production spans a healthy number of genres, and in particular has managed to establish itself as a prime destination for original sci-fi programming.
Apple TV+ Best in Show
The quality over quantity approach hasn’t resulted in skyrocketing subscriber numbers — but we’ll talk later about why that’s not as big a deal as some might think. Meanwhile, Apple’s existing catalog deserves plenty of praise.
Initially, Apple TV+ had intended to limit its series to original content produced in-house to avoid royalties. However, the pandemic has messed up that plan a bit. In response to the closure of all of their manufacturing operations, Apple licensed select items that fall into the must-see category for a large segment of people in the domestic market. These titles included the popular Fraggle Rock franchise, as well as the series of Charlie Brown Christmas specials that have been a staple in American homes for decades.
It’s a smart move to diversify your content with a mix of originals and licensed (and who among us doesn’t love Fraggle Rock), but it’s this original content that really shines. Ted Lasso reminded the world what a warm, friendly comedy could feel like at a time when we needed it most, while Severance kept us all on our toes with his slow-burning secret. The Afterparty and Mythic Quest make us laugh, while For All Mankind, Foundation and See inundate sci-fi fans with impeccable options.
And then there’s the CODA of everything. Apple Spent A Pretty Penny On CODA Right After The Sundance Film Festival – a hearty $25 million indeed – but in the end it paid off for her. Subscriber count doesn’t affect awards season, and the festival favorite made Apple TV+ the first streamer to win Best Picture at the Oscars.
Apple’s marketing strategy for its streaming service was basically zero, but the idea here is why spend money on marketing when the price talks will market for you?
Apple TV+ is a different kind of streamer
Conversations about Apple’s subscriber count are common, but often miss the streamer’s intent. Competitors like Netflix and Disney+ live and breathe on their subscriber base (a business model that’s been hugely successful for both platforms, despite recent setbacks and Netflix). But Apple TV+ plays a different game. Instead of focusing on encouraging subscriptions, Apple treats its service as value for its customers. People not in the market for a new Apple device can only get a meager 7-day trial of the streamer. Meanwhile, trials are free for months for those who buy anything from the tech giant.
Their business model focuses on introducing new customers to the ever-expanding Apple ecosystem and giving those who are already in the process more reasons to stay.
The aforementioned lack of Apple TV+ marketing makes a lot more sense when you consider the overall strategy. Apple broke buying records when it acquired CODA, and we all wonder why the film’s release came at this point without a boost to general audiences. But if your overall intent is to add value rather than drive subscriptions, it doesn’t matter that everyone doesn’t flock to your movie or series in the first week.
It’s easy to call this business model crazy. Until you realize it works. After her win for best picture Variety reported that Apple TV+ saw a 25 percent increase in new subscribers. Apple TV+ may not report a subscriber count, but a 25% jump is a sharp increase regardless of the starting number.
Why does it matter?
At the end of the day, the “why” is much less interesting than the result. Who cares about the decisions behind Apple’s business model? What really matters here is what this model yields.
Many of the decisions that have led to poor content quality in the streaming space may be related to the fact that all major players rely on first-week numbers, subscriber counts, and content algorithms. By not locking itself into these factors, Apple TV+ can confidently invest in shows like Severance that start off with very little attention and culminate in big water-chiller moments for fans. It’s able to splurge on its pricey sci-fi offerings as fandom grows for them, while also presenting an impressively diverse spread of genres, so there’s something for everyone.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about all of this is the fact that Apple TV+ is evolving even though it’s already broken from streamer form. Its licensing decisions during quarantine were in response to the problem they were facing, but an interesting new partnership is now emerging. In January 2022, Apple announced a partnership with Legendary to bring an original series of Godzilla and Titans to the platform. (Which, interestingly, was co-created by Hawkeye’s Matt Fraction.) The series will continue Legendary’s existing Monsterverse, which began with Kong: Skull Island in 2017, and opens a new chapter for Apple TV+.
Not only is the streamer leaning toward a licensed partnership in a big way, but it’s also taking a big step toward its first “Event Watch” series. Severance came close towards the end of its first season, but a big IP like the Monsterverse means Apple is poised to break into the big streaming leagues with the likes of House of the Dragon, Rings of Power, and Stranger Things.
Apple TV+ looks like any other streaming service when you sign up to find something to stream. At its core, however, there are fundamental differences that set it apart from its competition. The irony that Apple – a big tech company – has decided to move away from streaming algorithms and subscription counting hasn’t escaped us, but we’re sure glad they did!
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