Does anyone care about Apple TV+? Maybe it’s time to start
When it launched in November 2019, Apple TV+ was notable for being the only streaming service that didn’t come with a library of existing licensed content. Everything about the service was original and created for (or acquired by) the platform. It didn’t take a genius to know that would be a hindrance rather than an asset, but when a tech company enters the media space, it’s not exactly surprising either. Subscribers want the most bang for their buck, and they want the nostalgia that comes with rewatching old shows alongside the dopamine rush of falling in love and watching new ones. Apple TV+ couldn’t provide that. And it certainly didn’t help that the few programs available at launch or soon after became lackluster, predictable, or downright awful – a pattern that will continue for some time to come. This unfortunately overshadowed the few good shows available, like Dickinson and For all mankind, which failed to garner follows commensurate with their quality. But the streaming service has been slowly changing things up lately. And yet, does anyone really care?
The winds of change began to turn in the summer of 2020 with the arrival of Ted Lasso. Word of the feel-good comedy, which follows an American football coach (Jason Sudeikis) who becomes the manager of a failing English Premier League team, has spread like wildfire during the pandemic. Turns out being locked inside our homes for months due to a deadly virus was good business for Apple TV+ and other similar streaming services. Who knows if the show, with its themes of optimism and human kindness, would have thrived similarly in a world where the pandemic never happened. But whatever, Ted LassoThe commercial success of quickly turned into widespread critical success, and the series won numerous awards for its first and second seasons, including Emmys, Screen Actors Guild, and Television Critics Association awards.
Since then, Apple TV+’s reputation as a content creator has improved somewhat, and the service has produced several more quality programs. Schmidadon!, a parody tribute to the great age of musicals, debuted in the summer of 2021 to critical acclaim. It was followed by the well-received bilingual comedy Acapulco. Meanwhile, 2022 has got off to a good start with a string of winners that include the latest iteration of fragglerock (known as Fraggle Rock: back to the rock), the genre-bending comedic murder mystery the after partyand the psychological thriller Breakup. None have yet proven to have the mass appeal of the service’s biggest hit. However, they are all quality TV shows and hits with critics. But then again, does anyone outside of the media echo chamber actually care about these shows? Does the average consumer actually watch Apple TV+?
The argument that there are too many streaming services is old in 2022. Frankly, once the realm expanded beyond the big three – Netflix, Hulu and Amazon – it was probably too much. Now people also have the option to subscribe to Apple TV+, Disney+ (owned by Disney), HBO Max (owned by WarnerMedia), Paramount+ (formerly known as CBS All Access and owned by Paramount, the company formerly known as ViacomCBS), and Peacock (owned by NBCUniversal). And that doesn’t even include Discovery+, which offers non-fiction programming, or the niche services like Acorn TV, BritBox and Shudder.
In September 2021, it was reported that Apple had told the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees that it had less than 20 million paying subscribers in the United States and Canada. (The company is offering three months of free Apple TV+ to anyone who buys a new iPhone or other qualifying device.) For comparison, Netflix’s most recent numbers put it at around 75.2 million subscribers. United States and Canada and 222 million worldwide. But Netflix has been in the game for a long time and remains the leader in streaming. Disney+ and HBO Max, which debuted in November 2019 and May 2020 respectively, are probably better comparisons, but the former didn’t reveal domestic subscriber numbers (it has 118.1 million worldwide). ), while HBO Max’s numbers are reported alongside those of the HBO cable channel (46.8 million domestic subscribers, but 73.8 million worldwide). Regardless of the lack of transparency regarding the number of streaming subscribers, it’s clear that Apple TV+ remains at or near the bottom of the food chain.
While Ted Lasso was a turning point for the service in terms of quality and visibility, Apple TV+ was apparently unable to capitalize on it. The fact that the company is finally churning out creative, well-made shows on a more consistent basis is worth celebrating. But it doesn’t matter if few subscribe to see said programs. Example : the after party, which features an all-star cast and hails from creator Chris Miller and his creative partner Phil Lord, is a delightful, fun, and well-done take on the murder mystery. Each episode follows events from a different person’s perspective and takes on a new genre as it matches said person. A musical episode written by Jack Dolgen (Crazy ex-girlfriend) and featuring Ben Schwartz, with original songs written by Jon Lajoie, is a creative highlight and series highlight. But the show has barely made a splash since its debut in late January.
According to Google, search interest in the after party peaked in the United States the day after its debut, declined sharply, then leveled off almost as quickly. It’s not that shocking (interest in TV shows is always high around premieres and higher throughout the season), but when you compare it to Disney+ Wanda Vision or HBO Max Peacemaker (or even Hulu’s Pam and Tommy, to a lesser extent), search interest during their airings is a series of clear peaks and troughs, with the peaks corresponding to new episode releases. So you can see a major difference in behavior and human interest. This raises an important question: does the after party would it have been more successful if it had been on another platform that releases new episodes every week? It’s possible, and probably even probable, because the series, like For all mankind before (and potentially as Breakup after) – remains largely under the radar of the masses.
And yet, it’s also hard to recommend people shell out more hard-earned cash each month for a streaming service that has even more quality flaws (To see, Mr Corman, Invasionand the popular but objectively bad morning show) and easy-to-forget shows (The Mosquito Coast, Foundation, Defend Jacob) than successes.
It’s also hard to tell people an Apple TV+ subscription is worth it when the service still doesn’t offer a full library of licensed content (in 2020, Apple made deals to acquire Peanuts programming and the original fragglerock, but these remain unique situations). Hopefully the quality channel shows that Apple TV+ has been producing lately isn’t a fluke, but rather a sign that the streaming service has ironed out some of its development flaws and will soon be worth the $4 fee. $.99 per month. Perhaps the fact that the service won four SAG Awards in February (two for Ted Lasso and two for the movie “CODA”) means that people will soon be subscribing for more than the two months that Ted Lasso release new episodes. Because the are shows that are worth watching and would benefit from having more eyeballs on them each week. And it would be a shame if they fell through the cracks just because of their streaming home.
Kaitlin Thomas is an entertainment journalist and television critic. His work has appeared in TV Guide, Salon and TV.com, among other places. You can find his tweets about TV, sports and Walton Goggins @thekaitling or read more of his work at kaitlinthomas.com.
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