Older Shows May Soon Be Coming to Apple TV+

Apple TV Plus on iPad Credit: Hadrian / Shutterstock
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When Apple launched Apple TV+ last year, it was clear the company wanted to focus entirely on producing it’s own original shows. It had earmarked billions of dollars to produce a relatively small number of shows, with a focus on quality over quantities, and despite some early speculation to the contrary, the company had made no efforts to stock up its online streaming service with a library of non-originals.

This was a significantly different approach that distinguished Apple from other streaming services, almost all of which had built their subscriber base from existing content licensed from other studios; their original content came much later. About the only major exception was Disney+, which had the unusual advantage of not needing to license content from anybody else, since it already had over five decades of its own content available to put online.

By contrast, Apple launched with only about a half-dozen shows last fall, and while that’s expanded to around 30 originals as we’ve hit the midpoint of the first year of Apple TV+, it still pales in comparison to what’s available elsewhere, and after viewers get through binge-watching their favour shows, there’s really not much other motivation for them to keep returning to the Apple TV+ service.

Bridging the Gap

Now, despite Tim Cook’s insistence that Apple is “about original programming,” it looks Apple may be changing direction and actually going out and seeking to license older shows, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

Apple TV+ is about original programming, it doesn’t feel right to just go out and take a rerun

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in comments made to investors during February’s shareholder meeting

Although by all reports Apple plans to still keep Apple TV+ focused on original shows, it appears to be shifting its strategy and taking pitches from Hollywood studios about licensing older content. According to sources, in fact, Apple has already bought some shows and movies, and although there aren’t any details available on what it’s acquired so far, it apparently doesn’t include any “huge franchises or blockbusters” — at least not yet.

While the reasons for the shift aren’t entirely clear, it may be at least partially a result of the ongoing global health pandemic basically putting the company’s entire production schedule on hiatus. At this point, with the exception of those shows that were already “in the can” and a special one-off episode of Mythic Quest, there’s a very good chance that Apple TV+ is going to run out of content soon.

To be clear, Apple has renewed pretty much every one of its shows for a second season, and at least some of those began production before the world started locking down in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which means that Apple may be struggling to have any of its originals ready for the fall season, when it was likely expecting to release the second seasons of its flagship series’ like The Morning Show and For All Mankind, not to mention likely several other big-name projects it’s been working on — and a critical time for trying to convert millions of users who are taking advantage of the one-year free trial into paying customers.

So Apple is going to need to have something to show this fall if it expects people to actually buy in to Apple TV+. At this point, sources familiar with the service have said that although Apple TV+ recently hit 10 million subscribers, only about half of those are actively using the service. The rest have either lost interest in the current slate of content, or signed up to the free trial merely to “kick the tires.” However, that doesn’t mean that there may not be a large number of subscribers who are simply waiting for the second seasons of their favourite shows to debut.

By contrast, Disney+ signed up 10 million users on the first day of its U.S. launch, and Netflix added about 16 million new customers in the first quarter of 2020 alone.

While the pandemic has had a negative impact on Apple’s production schedules, it has, as Tim Cook says, “cut both ways,” increasing the use of the service as more people stay home looking for new things to watch.

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