Apple and Family Friendly TV Fare

November 9th, 2017

After building a business on DVD rentals, Netflix got involved in streaming content direct to you. Certainly the Apple TV was a pioneer in being able to deliver such content to your set. I’ll avoid, for the moment, the current generation and the previous one, since I’m not at all sure the advantages they may offer are worth the extra cash.

Considering a former market leader has a much lower share these days, customers appear to be more interested in price over voice assistants and running apps on their TVs, other than those delivering TV shows and movies.

At one time, it was believed Apple wanted to get into the subscription TV business, roughly in the fashion of Dish Network’s Sling TV, and AT&T’s DirectTV NOW! The service would include a subset of popular cable TV channels, and perhaps the major broadcast networks. The Apple TV was allegedly meant as the forefront of this venture, but that ship appears to have sailed, and in its place is Apple’s nascent effort to produce its own TV content.

While it doesn’t show much in the way of originality, the series version of “Carpool Karaoke: The Series,” derived from James Corden’s TV sketch, was at least something new. But just where is Apple taking this project, or was this show meant as a proof of concept to gauge the public’s reaction?

Then came published reports that Apple planned to spend $1 billion on original TV content, and the venture became all the more serious with stories about the hiring of several seasoned TV executives from Sony TV.

For a short time, there were unconfirmed rumors that Apple might be negotiating to acquire Eon Productions, best known as the production company responsible for James Bond. But all those 007 films have been broadcast on TV dozens and dozens of times. There’s a new film every three years or thereabouts, but would all of that be worth committing several billon dollars for the acquisition?

Why not something new, something original?

The next report about original programming was actually about a planned reboot, a 1980’s fantasy/sci-fi/horror anthology series from Steven Spielberg, “Amazing Stories.”

This doesn’t mean that it won’t be any good. I’ll assume it’ll have the solid production values for which Spielberg and his associates are famous.

But what about something completely new?

Well, the other story was about a new drama featuring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, neither of whom has had a major Hollywood hit for a while.

So according to published reports, Apple has given a two-season order for this series. It’s reportedly about people involved in morning TV shows and is partly based on a book, “Top of the Morning,” from Brian Stelter. The duo will reportedly executive produce the show along with Michael Ellenberg, a former HBO executive. Also reportedly involved is Jay Carson, who previously worked on “House of Cards.”

The deal is “straight to series,” and involves 20 episodes. In other words, there will be no pilot episode first to sell it to a network. In that way, it’s similar to the way Netflix has handled original programming. Apple reportedly won out in competition with Showtime and other networks.

The question, however, is whether this show will be family friendly, or something with a more adult slant. If it’s typical of the approach taken in resurrecting a 30-year-old series originally broadcast by a TV network, it will probably not rise beyond PG, and that’s very much in line with Apple’s image as a company that  builds family-friendly tech gear with a focus on user privacy.

Now a successful TV series doesn’t have to feature explicit language, nudity and sexual situations. The highest rated shows on broadcast television during prime time may sometimes push the boundaries a tad, but seldom contain content that you wouldn’t want your kids to watch.

Take a recent Top 25 survey of American TV shows from Nielsen. The first 10 included sporting events, “The Big Hang Theory,” “60 Minutes,” “NCIS,” and “Dancing with the Stars.”

Compare that with the way Netflix handled its original series debut, with such cutting-edge fare as “Orange is the New Black,” and “House of Cards.”

The key is that Netflix took an approach that was closer to that of the premium cable TV channels, such as HBO and Showtime, as opposed to such broadcast outlets as CBS and NBC.

The real question is how Apple plans to distribute these new shows. Will they join “Carpool Karaoke” as extra content for Apple Music? I suppose it could be rebranded as Apple Music and TV, to make it an all-encompassing service covering different types of content. Perhaps Apple could offer the new shows for sale or rent, but that doesn’t seem to be it either.

Or maybe there will be a new streaming service to compete directly with Netflix with plans to license additional content to flesh out the programming repertoire. Or maybe that’s not it either.

But Apple has not exactly been forthcoming about its plans. All of the reports, at least so far,  have not been officially confirmed, so it’s not at all clear what happens next. However, it’s not that Apple has made any effort to deny the stories, so no doubt news about these and other deals will only intensify interest until the final game plan is announced. That the reports have been published as mainstream stories in such industry trades as “Hollywood Reporter” means you should take them seriously.

I’m not at all interested in a show from a pair of rom-com performers, but I wouldn’t be averse to giving “Amazing Stories” a try; that is, assuming I don’t have to add one more subscription to see it.

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2 Responses to “Apple and Family Friendly TV Fare”

  1. dfs says:

    Apple fares best when it either a.) creates a previously nonexistent market or b.) enters a market poorly served by existing products or services. When it comes to providing streaming content, neither of these conditions apply. In this case, Apple looks like a Johnny-Come-Lately playing catchup, it’s acting more like Microsoft at its Steve Balmerish worst rather than its usual self. So the omens don’t look at all good.

  2. DK Jones says:

    Reese has been focused on a current series and buying rights to books with solid female characters. So, I expect good things from this show. I think Apple has made a good deal.

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