Ted Lasso's record-breaking second season is well underway, and there's a full slate of new content coming to Apple TV+ this fall with several shows returning for subsequent seasons and brand new titles streaming for the first time.
At this point, with more content rumors swirling every day, some people wonder if Apple TV+ is becoming a true competitor to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. With its focus on all-original content, I'm not so sure it matters.
Rumors of neutered content
When rumors of Apple's ambitions for TV content first started surfacing, there was skepticism around how successful it could be against a streaming media backdrop consisting of only a few big players. When it became clear Apple had begun cutting deals in Hollywood, there was also chatter about how Apple executives were interfering in the production process to ensure a family-friendly environment on its streaming service.
This seemed like a recipe for disaster in the age of Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black. However, these rumors were quickly proved wrong by the premiere of launch title See and the hard-hitting subject matter of The Morning Show.
Apple has, instead, shown that TV+ can be the home for a varied mix of content from dramas and thrillers to documentaries, comedies, animated movies, content for children, and even musicals. Though its initial slate of content was small, it has fleshed out its own catalog in the years since its launch, despite a pandemic pressing pause on production for a number of shows.
The best part is that Apple TV+ doesn't have a bunch of filler content. With a focus on quality, talent, and storytelling, the service has built up a collection of TV shows and movies you want to see and can't see anywhere else.
Sleeper hits and breakout successes
Jason Sudeikis-starring Ted Lasso was a surprise sleeper hit and has likely done wonders for the service with word-of-mouth marketing. Extended free trials of the service will have meant viewers stuck around and perhaps checked out a few other titles before their subscription expired. From experience with non-tech-savvy family members, I know that Ted Lasso got them in the door of Apple TV+ and other killer shows kept them subscribed.
Apple TV+ has been picking up a steady stream of awards of late, too. In fact, Apple TV+ has picked up 125 wins and 503 awards nominations in a couple of years since its launch including Emmy-, SAG-, and Critics Choice Award-winning The Morning Show, NAACP Image Award-winning drama Truth Be Told, Daytime Emmy Award-winning Stillwater, Critics Choice Real TV Award-winning The Oprah Conversation, and Ted Lasso which has picked up a Peabody Award for excellence in storytelling among many other award nominations and wins.
On top of dramas, thrillers, and comedies, there has been room for experimentation within Apple TV+ since its launch. Short-form audio-only series Calls is nothing if not unique, there's the podcast-meets-documentary series The Line, and star-studded unscripted series like The Me You Can't See and Greatness Code. Some of these shows might not draw big numbers or be too expensive to make, so they plainly wouldn't exist on other services.
With strong music industry links, Apple TV+ also makes a great home for unique music documentaries, as seen with the hugely popular Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry, the Spike Jonze-directed Beastie Boys Story, 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You, and new series Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson.
With some industry recognition already achieved, particularly with Ted Lasso, and a stacked fall slate, it seems as if Apple TV+ is just one or two breakout successes away from establishing itself as a must-have streaming service for only $5 a month.
Speaking of that monthly cost, Apple TV+ provides a surprisingly great value. At $5 per month, it's less than half the cost of competing services, and it is effectively free if you already subscribe to a couple of other Apple services and instead upgrade to an Apple One bundle. With those extended free trials, very few people actually paid for Apple TV+ for most of its existence as Apple got its house in order, filled out its library, and weathered pandemic delays.
Now, with launch titles returning for second seasons and a wealth of content on the books for the months and years ahead, that value proposition is only going to get stronger over time. Plus, there are no ads, and 4K is included at no extra cost for those with compatible devices like the best Apple TV models, something that some other services charge extra for.
There are some neat added extras around Apple TV+ content that not everyone knows about, too. Take the official For All Mankind podcast, for example, or the tongue-in-cheek audiobook for Tears of the Anaren that accompanied Mythic Quest, and even AFC Richmond's Twitter account. Though these are all available for free and not unlike similar offerings from other streaming services, they are superb extra touches for super fans of those shows that increase the perceived value of the service itself.
Apple TV+ will always have a smaller catalog than competing services, but it might just end up with a better catalog. Maybe it doesn't become your one-and-only streaming service like Disney+ or Netflix have the propensity to be but a perfect accompaniment to other services, and maybe at $5 a month, that's just fine.
Potential future hits
We know about big-budget upcoming titles like Foundation, based on Isaac Asimov's sprawling sci-fi novels, which could be the Game of Thrones-sized show that Apple TV+ needs, as well as its other soon-to-release sci-fi thriller Invasion that could prove popular.
Other upcoming Apple TV+ shows also have huge names like Denzel Washington, Jennifer Lawrence, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Robert DeNero, and more attached as Apple splashes the cash to fill out its catalog and find its next big hit.
Apple has managed to get Jon Stewart back in front of the camera, has a 9/11 documentary launching soon, and has its Big Man on Campus Makur Maker documentary series in the works as it continues to bolster its non-fiction programming, too.
Given the surprise hit that Ted Lasso proved to be, there's no clear key to success in the streaming space, but Apple seems to be continuing to pick up content it thinks will have a chance to succeed. Judging by the average level of quality of its shows and movies thus far, I expect most of what it puts out in the future will be similarly well-made.
Of course, Apple TV+ is just one of Apple's many service offerings, and it has taken slightly different approaches with each.
Since Apple Music has the same content as every other streaming music platform essentially, it's harder to differentiate it from the likes of Spotify and Amazon Music Unlimited. A few exclusive albums, star-studded Apple Music 1 radio shows (which you can actually stream live without a subscription), and a focus on listening experience with Lossless music and Dolby Atmos-powered Spatial Audio are clear attempts to keep users on Apple Music and stop them switching services.
Similarly, Apple News+ brings together existing content from multiple sources, in this case, newspaper and magazine publications, in one convenient place. Since the content itself isn't exclusive to Apple, there's relatively little to stop someone ditching News+ to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal directly or go pick up their favorite magazine from a newsstand.
Apple's home workout service, Fitness+, has a much smaller addressable market since it requires an Apple Watch, but it maintains a steady stream of new workouts each week. It's competing with Peleton, Fitbit Premium, ClassPass, and myriad others. Everything on Fitness+ is exclusive by virtue of the type of service it is. You can't exactly buy up a back catalog of home workouts, though Apple did poach a bunch of trainers from other services.
For gamers, Apple Arcade offers a hybrid approach when it comes to games. It launched as an all-exclusive service with titles only available on Arcade (at least on mobile). Over time, it has morphed to include classic games and popular App Store titles with in-app purchases and ads removed. I've argued previously that Apple Arcade's messaging has become muddied, to its detriment, which is why I think Apple TV+ need to maintain its 100% exclusive catalog.
Apple TV+ is somewhat uniquely placed in the streaming video market as an all-exclusive offering. Most services rely on an extensive back catalog, an endless mountain of movies, and shows of varying quality so that there is always something to keep viewers watching. TV+ instead focuses on quality, allows space for writers and directors to be creative and try new things while not charging the customer through the nose for a bunch of stuff they don't want to see.
As services revenue continues to be an increasingly large part of Apple's business, I hope that it can maintain some of the creative spirit within Apple TV+, avoid a huge price hike, and ultimately grab some more market share in the streaming space, so Apple continues to feel able to pursue great content.
What do you think? Is Apple TV+ providing you with value for money, or does it need to do something else to get you to subscribe? Let me know in the comments.
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Adam Oram is a Senior Writer at iMore. He studied Media at Newcastle University and has been writing about technology since 2013. He previously worked as an Apple Genius and as a Deals Editor at Thrifter. His spare time is spent watching football (both kinds), playing Pokémon games, and eating vegan food. Follow him on Twitter at @adamoram.