Apple Continues to Flesh Out “Worldwide Video” Division

December 7th, 2017

Some time in the not distant future, Apple may begin to stream real TV shows, and not silly stunt fare such as “Carpool Karaoke” and “Planet of the Apps.” It seems real enough, but is there a demand for any more content?

That was the question I had a while back amid reports of the failure of Apple’s plans for a TV subscription service. Supposedly the fourth-generation Apple TV was meant to spearhead the new delivery service, which would provide a slim and light repertoire of TV channels, maybe local stations, and perhaps a cloud-based DVR scheme.

The Apple TV arrived with complaints that it was too expensive and lacked 4K support. While such companies as DirecTV and Dish Network introduced lower-cost streaming services, Apple was reportedly unable to reach the necessary content deals. Rumors had it that Apple made demands that the entertainment companies refused to meet.

So if you take any of this seriously, does it mean that the industry realized they gave up too much to Apple when digital music went legal?

Of course, when nothing is actually confirmed, except for Apple’s statements of interest in the living room, you can only hope the sources for these stories are at least somewhat informed. At long last, though, there is an Apple TV 4K, and it may even deliver a better picture and superior sound when compared to the far cheaper contenders from Amazon, Google and Roku.

But it really doesn’t help sales when you can buy some really decent TV sets with Google Chromecast and Roku providing the smart features. Other than iTunes and AirPlay, does anyone even need an Apple TV 4K? That it has search and Siri?

After Apple Music arrived, it was reported that Apple decided to produce some original TV fare, in the spirit of Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and other services. But the first attempts seemed lame. “Carpool Karaoke,” for example, is based on a popular skit from The Late Late Show with James Cordon, in which famous people appear.

This year, however, it became clear that Apple regarded its Worldwide Video project as something serious with the hiring of several Sony Pictures Television executives to manage production chores. More recently, yet another seasoned executive, producer Michelle Lee, was brought in become part of the growing team.

This and the previous hirings have to be taken seriously, because they were reported in Variety, a major industry trade journal.

So just what does Apple plan to produce?

Well, there was a short-lived rumor that plans were afoot to attempt to acquire Eon Productions, the firm that produces the James Bond films, but really? One would think that Apple would want to bring something original to the table, but the first alleged projects appear to be a mixed bag.

So Apple will reportedly reboot “Amazing Stories,” from Steven Spielberg. This was a 1980’s fantasy, horror and sci-fi show in the spirit of “The Outer Limits” and “Twilight Zone.”

But it’s also true that the series ran just two years, with a total of 45 episodes produced. That’s hardly a harbinger of success, so why would Apple want to bring it back? Even if the production values, the cast and the scripts were first-rate, shouldn’t a reboot be based on something successful.

What about “Twilight Zone”? Well, I guess not since that reboot is reportedly set for CBS All Access, the streaming service that also brings you “Star Trek: Discovery.” So is Apple getting second best? I don’t recall being super impressed with “Amazing Stories,” or maybe my memory fails me.

The second series? Something starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, a drama about producing a morning TV show. It is said to have a two-season, 20-episode order. But does anyone really care what happens on those shows? Maybe in 1955, but 2017?

Why not something new, something truly original?

However, Apple will supposedly not deliver any edgy programming in the spirit of “House of Cards” or “Dexter.” It will reportedly be more family friendly, which is fine and all. But what is there about rebooting an old anthology show that only achieved a modest level of success?

Well, I suppose you could use “S.W.A.T,” a CBS scripted drama, as a somewhat similar example. The original premiered in 1975 and lasted just two seasons. There was also a modestly successful 2003 movie version featuring Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, and Jeremy Renner.

The new show, which has already received a full season order, is essentially a star vehicle for Shemar Moore, who was one of the stars of the long-running “Criminal Minds,” also on CBS. While derivative, the third version of “S.W.A.T.” is not a bad show actually, and ratings are quite decent overall.

Maybe the revitalized “Amazing Stories” can go somewhere?

It may well be that Apple is dipping its toes into TV production carefully, but why should anyone choose these shows with all the competition among scripted dramas? As it is, there’s too much available already, an embarrassment of riches.

How does Apple set itself apart? Family friendly? You already get a lot of that on broadcast TV; well there are the commercials of course. But you can always buy a season pass and get them ad-free.

I’m also wondering how the new Apple shows will be distributed. I suppose it’s possible they’ll be offered as value added extras for Apple Music in a move to boost memberships.

Or will they just be sold or rented via iTunes?

Either way, I’m not expecting much. What do you think, readers?

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