We’ve been hearing news for years about Apple’s original content and it’s video streaming service from a production point of view, but now it looks like its plans for the consumer-facing part of the service are finally coming into focus, with some new reports on when it will finally be ready for prime time, what it will cost, and what’s actually going to be there.
According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to roll out the movie and TV subscription service by November — a couple of months later than many would have hoped, but still well within Apple’s promised “fall 2019” time frame.
Pricing apparently hasn’t yet been finalized, but sources say that Apple is “weighing $9.99 a month” to match Apple Music and Apple News+. However, this would put it in a potentially strange position relative to rivals like Netflix and Amazon, which charge as little as $8.99/month for a much larger library of content, not to mention the $6.99/month Disney+ service that will be launching around the same time.
So it seems a bit ludicrous that Apple TV+ — a service that will offer only original content produced by Apple — should be priced at that level, and this is even more unusual considering that Apple only plans to launch the service with a relatively small selection of shows, but Apple may be hoping that class will tell.
According to the Bloomberg report, the initial slate of Apple TV+ content will include The Morning Show — the much-publicized drama with Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon — along with Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, the Jason Momoa-led See, Truth Be Told with Octavia Spencer, and a documentary series on extravagant houses called Home.
It’s unclear if this list is comprehensive, but it’s safe to say that these are the flagship titles, and anything else is likely less worthy of mention. Apple is of course working on much more than just these, but it may not have everything in the can for the initial debut of Apple TV+.
The much-ballyhooed flagship of Apple’s new content appears to be The Morning Show, for which Apple released a teaser trailer last week, followed by a full trailer yesterday, showing a hard-hitting drama that appears to be addressing modern issues of workplace ethics and sexual harassment.
However, there’s another series that Apple has been promoting that doesn’t seem to be on the list of those shows that will debut with the service — For All Mankind, the Ronald D. Moore led drama that re-envisions the global space race was also promoted alongside the Apollo 11 anniversary last month, so we’d be surprised if that one wasn’t also available very soon after the service launches.
Quality over Quantity
Of course, pricing hasn’t been finalized, nor is it clear how long of a free trial period Apple will be offering. After all, a three-month free trial period like Apple Music offers would give Apple time to round out its content offerings before expecting users to actually pay for what they’re watching
However, it also seems that Apple’s obvious play here is to produce extremely premium, quality content, and if the trailers we’ve seen so far are any indication, things look promising. Apple may feel that its original content is worth $9.99/month, even without an existing library of third-party material.
In fact, Apple’s strategy is arguably very different from that of most of its rivals. While the market is slowly changing, surveys have shown that many customers of Netflix and Amazon Prime aren’t drawn by the original series’ on those services, but rather by the large library of what’s already there, with the original content being a bonus. It’s fair to say that the same will be true with Disney+ when it launches later this year. On the other hand, anybody subscribing to Apple TV+ will be doing so because the shows that Apple is producing are compelling enough to entice people to open their wallets.
The Morning Show Cost More Than Game of Thrones
Apple seems determined to make this happen too, with a separate report by The Financial Times revealing that it has already committed more than $6 billion to produce original shows and movies — a dramatic increase over the $1 billion it originally earmarked. While this budget is still dwarfed by rivals like Netflix, which is expected to spend $15 billion this year on original content alone, those rivals are spreading their budgets across a much wider range of content.
By comparison, Apple’s original content efforts are laser-focused, so that $6 billion is going to far fewer projects, many of which have budgets that are beyond anything that any other television production house has even dreamed of. We’ve already heard Apple has been spending as much as $15 million per episode on shows like See, and according to The Financial Times, Apple has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on The Morning Show alone — more than the cost of the entire final season of Game of Thrones.
Apple is reportedly offering more generous payment terms than its rivals too, which is helping it win more deals in Hollywood. For example, Netflix pays content creators over several years, while Apple is happier to shell out payments much sooner, as long as certain milestones are hit.
In fact, Apple is spending so much on original content now that industry executives are saying it’s actually raising the bar for the price of television shows. While it takes more than raw dollars to produce a good show, money certainly helps to attract the kind of talent that’s necessary to make it happen, and Apple has already shown us that it has no shortage of that on board either.