When we first reviewed Apple TV+ upon its debut in 2019, we gave it a lower score due to its lack of content. At the time, our reviewer was absolutely right to do so. We didn’t know anything about what kind of value Apple would bring to the streaming space, and we couldn’t think of many reasons to recommend the service when other streaming services offered it. road more content at the same price of $4.99.
Fast-forward to 2022. Discovery+ still offers an incredible number of shows for the same price as Apple TV+, but the properties that make up much of that catalog are Peak Content™ (think reality TV, low production value series, etc.) . We love an easy binge as much as the next person, but little has been done to evolve the value of the platform in the three years since its inception. Change is on the horizon with the imminent merger of HBO Max and Discovery+, but it comes amid considerable upheaval for Warner Bros. Discovery.
Meanwhile, Apple TV+ has seen significant title growth since its debut in 2019. The streamer still has far fewer in terms of series volume compared to its competitors, but where it wins is in quality. Objectively speaking, it’s hard to find anything wrong with Apple TV+, whether the movie or series aligns with your personal taste or not. Apple has also gone to great lengths to ensure that its story output spans a fair number of genres, and specifically has managed to establish itself as a premier destination for original sci-fi programming.
Apple TV+ Best of Show
The quality-over-quantity method hasn’t resulted in skyrocketing subscribers, but we’ll talk about why it’s not as important as some may think a bit later. Meanwhile, Apple’s existing catalog deserves a lot of praise.
Initially, Apple TV+ intended to keep its series limited to original content produced in-house to avoid licensing fees. The pandemic, however, messed that plan up a bit. In response to shutting down all of its productions, Apple licensed select properties that fall into the “must see” category for a large portion of people in the domestic market. These titles included the beloved Fraggle Rock franchise, as well as the Charlie Brown set of holiday 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 licenses (and who among us doesn’t love Fraggle Rock), but it’s that original content that really shines. Ted Lasso reminded the world of what a warm and friendly comedy could feel like at a time when we needed it most, as Severance kept us all on the edge of our seats with the slow-burning mystery of him. The likes of The Afterparty and Mythic Quest have us laughing, while For All Mankind, Foundation and See keep sci-fi fans inundated with impeccable options.
And then there’s the CODA of it all. Apple spent quite a bit of money on CODA straight from the Sundance Film Festival: a bountiful $25 million dollars in fact – but it was worth it for them in the end. Subscriber numbers don’t factor into awards season, and the festival favorite resulted in Apple TV+ becoming the first streamer to win Best Picture at the Oscars.
Apple’s marketing strategy for its streaming service has been basically nil, but the idea here is why spend money on marketing when talk of prizes will market to you?
Apple TV+ is a different kind of streamer
Conversations about Apple’s subscriber count are frequent, but often overlook the intent of the broadcaster. Competitors like Netflix and Disney+ live and breathe by their subscriber numbers (a business model that has been wildly successful for both platforms despite Netflix and recent setbacks). But Apple TV+ is playing a different game. Instead of focusing on generating subscriptions, Apple treats its service as an added value for its customers. People who are not in the market for a new Apple device can only get a minimum 7-day trial of the streamer. Meanwhile, trials for those who purchase anything from the tech giant qualify for free months.
Its business model is focused on introducing new customers to the ever-growing Apple ecosystem and continuing to give existing customers more reasons to stay.
Apple TV+’s aforementioned lack of marketing starts to make a lot more sense when you consider its overall strategy. Apple broke purchase records when it acquired CODA, which left us all wondering why it was then that the movie’s release came without any momentum to the general public. But when your overall intent is to add value rather than count subscriptions, it doesn’t matter that not everyone flocks to your movie or series in the first week.
It’s easy to look at that business model and call it crazy. Right until you realize it’s working. After winning his best picture, Variety reported that Apple TV+ saw a 25% increase in new subscribers. Apple TV+ may not report its number of subscribers, but a jump of 25% is a strong increase, regardless of the initial number.
Why does that matter?
At the end of the day, the “why” of everything is much less interesting than the result. Who cares about the decisions behind Apple’s business model? What really matters here is what that model turns out to be.
Many of the decisions that have led to poor quality content in the streaming space can be tied to all the major players being beholden to first week numbers, subscriber counts, and content algorithms. By not being tied to those factors, Apple TV+ can confidently invest in shows like Severance, which start with very little attention and culminate in big moments for fans. It’s able to pour money into its expensive sci-fi offerings while fandom grows for them while also featuring an impressively diverse array of genres, so there’s something for everyone.
Perhaps most interesting of all this is the fact that, despite having already broken the streamer mold, Apple TV+ is evolving. Their furlough decisions during quarantine were a reaction to the problem that had been presented to them, but now there is an interesting new partnership on the horizon. In January 2022, Apple announced a partnership with Legendary to bring an original Godzilla and Titans series to the platform. (Which, point of interest, is co-created by Matt Fraction of Hawkeye fame.) The series will tie into Legendary’s existing Monsterverse, which began with 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, and turns the page on 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 was near the end of its first season, but a major IP like the Monsterverse means Apple is poised to enter the big streaming leagues with House of the Dragon, Rings of Power, and Stranger Things.
Apple TV+ is just like any other streaming service when you sign in to find something to stream. However, at its core are fundamental differences that set it above and beyond its competition. The irony that it’s Apple, a major tech company, that chose to break streaming algorithms and subscription counts isn’t lost on us, but we’re glad they did!
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