Why Apple TV+ Will Fail


Q. What do you think of the new Apple TV video service? Do you think it will do well? Should I subscribe? — Cindy, Fairfax, Virginia.

Cindy,  that’s a great question. There are hundreds of companies trying to get a piece of the action in the increasingly competitive fight for the video audience. But I predict that Apple’s slice will wind up being relatively small.

Before I explain why, here’s a few basic facts about Apple TV+, the new name for the company’s video initiative.

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Apple TV+ will debut on November 1 for $4.99 a month. While that may seem like an attractive price, consider this: Apple will only offer original programs at launch. And even worse, there will be only nine. Yes, nine shows for $4.99 a month. Unlike its rivals, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, the company won’t carry thousands and thousands of titles in multiple categories. Apple TV+ is more like Apple TV-.

Apple obviously realizes that isn’t a very good deal so it’s bundling a free 12-month subscription to Apple TV+ with a new purchase of an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod Touch or Mac computer. The company hopes that millions of new Apple hardware owners will fall in love with Apple TV+ and sign up after a year of free viewing.

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But for that to happen, two things have to occur.

One, Apple needs to produce a lot more original content. (It has the money and motivation so no problem here.)

And two, that content has to be very good. (This is where I have a problem with Apple TV+.)

Over the last several years, Apple has demonstrated that it has little understanding of the TV audience, nor the TV business. The company has flirted with everything from building a company-branded TV to buying and/or partnering with a pay TV company to developing an on-screen guide that would supposedly revolutionize the industry.

But until now, it has only produced the Apple TV streaming device, which is basically a knock-off of Roku and Amazon Fire TV.  Despite occasional bold proclamations that it was capable of dramatically improving the TV experience, it hasn’t at all. In fact, the company’s contributions to the television industry are almost non-existent.

But what about this new original content division? Surely, Apple’s deep pockets and reputation for innovation bodes well there, right? Well, the first batch of nine includes a comedy/drama about a morning news show (starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell and Reese Witherspoon); a comedy about Emily Dickinson; an Oprah Winfrey-backed show whose details have yet to be revealed; a Sesame Street spin-off; and a documentary about an elephant.

Does this sound like must-see TV to you? Apple is promising more in the months following launch, including a show from Steven Spielberg. But when’s the last time that you ran to the theaters to catch a Spielberg movie?

I suspect that Apple’s lack of affinity with the TV audience will hurt the company here. It can certainly hire ‘TV people’ with experience, but ultimately, it will be up to the geeks at the top to decide what gets the green light.

And, again, Apple has shown no indication that it understands TV, or more specifically, the TV audience, whether it’s a big-screen or a mobile one. The company has done an amazing job developing such products as the iPhone and iPad, but video is largely a secondary aspect of both.

In fact, I remember when Steve Jobs first introduced the 3.5-inch video-enabled iPod, and he predicted it would be the future of television. Obviously, Jobs was wrong. Mobile video is still a secondary (at best) viewing option for most consumers.

So I predict that Apple will invest heavily in trying to build a video division with original content. But I also predict that its historic and deep-rooted lack of understanding of television will doom it to relative failure. The company is no threat to Netflix, or even Amazon, Hulu and the upcoming Disney+.

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Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at swann@tvpredictions.com. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann

4 comments on “Why Apple TV+ Will Fail”

  1. I would definitely not count Apple out. First, it’s a no brainer to subscribe to a year of free AppleTV +. It’s free after all when you buy a new Apple device. More shows are on the way. It’s cheap. The quality appears to be very good. Too early to predict their demise.
    They are not a threat to the big boys for now. Time and content will tell. At $4.99, they could very well be an addition to Netflix subscribers portfolio especially if their content is good.

  2. Apple having only exclusive content creates a problem for people who want more. Besides Apple could easily outspend on the content without gaining enough paying subscribers. Sure free will get you noticed, but how many stick around after that is the question? Then you have services like Disney with way more familiar licensed content that makes a better argument for value. Personally I would not have started with exclusive content and built up a service on familiar licensed content that would attract more subs. I think Apple is going about it all wrong, in my opinion.

  3. I think this article is right on. Not only is this set of content not sound compelling, they sound exactly like all the shows that Hollywood creates. Maybe a little originality? Seems like Apple is just going to copy others. On top of that, Apple continues to want to heavily censor the content which will only anger both the content creators and the content viewers. This heavy-handed approach has never worked well for Apple in the past. They do well with their niche group of Apple devotees and when the have a monopoly like the first iPhones. Even now Android is taking over that market.

  4. Apple TV came out way before Roku or Amazon Fire. With that said, the biggest problem Apple TV+ will have is content. They want to be family friendly with their original content but we have Disney + for that. The reason HBO and Netflix are so successful is they also produce R rated content. If Apple is going for the PG crowd they will eventually fail, just like the Oprah Channel.

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