Hit Apple TV+ Shows Are Coming Out on Blu-ray and DVD

Apple TV Defending Jacob on Blu ray Credit: Apple
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From the start, Apple TV+ has been all about the kind of exclusive original shows that you can’t find on any other service. However, it now appears that the “exclusive” part may not be as significant as we originally believed, with at least one major Apple TV+ series hitting the shelves on Blu-ray and DVD this week.

First spotted by 9to5Mac, the Apple original limited series Defending Jacob has just gotten a physical media disc release, marking the first time any show on Apple TV+ has been available in any other format.

The series, which stars Chris Evans in the role of a prosecutor who is forced to defend his son against murder charges, made its debut on Apple TV+ last spring. While Apple doesn’t usually release viewer metrics, with much of the world shifting into pandemic lockdown mode, analysts and critics alike heralded Defending Jacob as one of the top hits of the season — breaking the viewership record previously held by The Morning Show.

Not So Exclusive After All

What’s particularly interesting about this, however, is what it reveals about Apple’s arrangements with the studios that are producing its original TV shows and movies.

Many had assumed that Apple wanted full release exclusivity over everything that it bankrolled to ensure that paying for an Apple TV+ subscription would be the only way to watch some of its most popular shows. However, there’s actually no record of Apple ever saying any such thing.

In fact, since almost all the content produced for Apple TV+ thus far has come from independent studios, it’s likely that Apple may have been forced to make some allowances for alternative releases to secure some of its content deals.

It’s also worth noting that even though Apple does sponsor the production of many of its TV shows, a number of the movies on the service were bought outright as finished projects. For example, Apple’s very first documentary film, The Elephant Queen, came out of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and it picked up the rights to the Will Smith movie Emancipation at Sundance.

Then of course there’s Tom Hanks’ Greyhound, which was never supposed to be on Apple TV+ at all. This was a feature film from Sony Pictures that was in the can already and slated to appear in theatres last spring. When the pandemic hit, Hanks and the other producers were left with the difficult choice of either delaying the film or debuting it on Apple TV+.

So, it seems pretty likely that Defending Jacob is only going to be the first of many Apple TV+ shows and movies to come out in a physical disc format. After all, if Apple is allowing a TV show that it fully backed to be released on physical media, it’s not going to stand in the way of movies like Greyhound that were produced entirely by other big Hollywood studios and simply picked up to run on Apple TV+.

In the case of Defending Jacob, the disc set is being released by Paramount, which seems to have retained all the physical media rights for the show, since 9to5Mac notes that it has no Apple branding on it. In fact, Paramount has even included some previously unseen bonus content and special features that aren’t available on Apple TV+.

Considering the way that Hollywood usually operates, it’s likely that Apple has negotiated a series of limited exclusivity deals, giving shows and movies a first-run period on Apple TV+ before they can be released in other formats. Apple’s contracts also likely stipulate that shows can’t be released on competing services.

Apple has a similar arrangement with Apple Arcade game developers. Despite pouring an average of $5 million into each game that appears on its platform, developers are generally permitted to release their games on non-competing platforms like PCs and consoles “after a few months of exclusivity.”

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