Apple announces underwhelming subscription video service


Since 2018, Apple has struggled with falling stock prices and declining revenues. Earlier this week, the company finally took significant steps to right the ship. This summer, the corporation will make its entry into the banking sector with a branded credit card.

On March 25, Apple announced plans to establish a beachhead in the subscription video on demand (SVOD) market this fall.

The company’s original video content service is called Apple TV+ and will be launching in more than 100 countries. However, the way the Silicon Valley giant has positioned its new streaming service, it’s not going to be a serious challenger for Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Instead, the organization’s new platform feels like an off-brand HBO Go or CBS All Access.

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What is Apple TV+?

To be clear, Apple TV+ is less a new product and more an expansion of the firm’s existing services. Subscribers will be able to access the platform via the Apple TV app.

As such, consumers can view its content via their iPhones, iPads, Macs, and the Apple TV streaming console. Moreover, the app, (but not the SVOD service) will be available on smart TVs as well as the Roku and Amazon Fire platforms this summer.

As of this writing, Apple said nothing about putting its Apple TV+ on Android, Windows, or Chrome. The corporation also made no mention of pricing during its product unveiling, but the firm did note the platform will be ad-free.

Only Original Content

As opposed to most SVOD’s, Apple TV+ will only feature original content. Its $1 billion initial production slate is made up of 25 new series from a wide range of different genres. The platform’s most appealing content includes:

“Amazing Stories”: A reboot of the classic ‘80s fantasy/horror show, “Amazing Stories” will be executive produced by original creator Steven Spielberg. “Once Upon a Time” helmers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz will contribute scripts to the show’s 10-episode first season.

“For All Mankind”: An alternate history sci-fi series created by “Battlestar Galactica’s” Ronald D. Moore, this program is set in a world where the Space Race never ended.

“Foundation”: Based on the Isaac Asimov book series of the same name, “Foundation” follows a mathematician who endeavors to mitigate the effects of an upcoming intergalactic dark age. “Krypton’s” David S. Goyer will serve as the series’ executive producer.

“Mythic Quest:” Created by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s” Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney, this comedy chronicles the goings-on at a video game development studio.

“See”: Set on a future Earth where humanity has lost the ability to see, this sci-fi show stars Jason Momoa. The actor plays a powerful warrior who must contend with the birth of a set of visually unimpaired twins.

“Servant:” Executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, “Servant” is a psychological thriller about the relationship between two young parents and their new babysitter.

Apple has also commissioned a science, technology, engineering, and math-related “Peanuts” animated series and a “Sesame Street” spinoff that will teach kids the basics of coding.

Apple Channels

Adjacent to the Apple TV+ platform, the company will also be offering a service called Apple Channels. Like the identically named Amazon Channels, the service allows subscribers to aggregate content from other platforms like HBO, BritBox, and Shudder.

As with its SVOD, pricing for Apple Channels has not been disclosed.

A Mixed Bag

So, Apple’s big push into media is, at best, something of a mixed bag. Some of the Apple TV+ series look appealing but the platform’s lack of licensed content is a major letdown. Moreover, despite the pedigree of the creators and performers involved, many of the service’s new series sound like network TV fare.

Obviously, nothing is certain until Apple TV+ debuts, but there doesn’t seem to be a “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones,” or “House of Card” in the mix. Without a distinctive flagship program or a vast content library, the platform feels superfluous in the current streaming landscape. It’s also a bummer to see a once innovative brand like Apple so obviously copying one of its biggest rivals.

The most dispiriting aspect of Apple’s announcement is that it makes sense on paper. Since the California-based tech company’s smartphone business has been flat for a while now, shifting focus to its much more lucrative services segment is really smart.

However, the tech titan’s gambit only works if it offers consumers something they can’t get anywhere else. The iPod, App Store, iPhone, and iPad all succeeded because they were novel, useful, and best in class products and services. Apple TV+ feels like the opposite of that.

Admittedly, Apple has a long history of defying the odds and performing under pressure. But right now, for the first time in 20 years, the company that once told us to “think big” feels disappointingly unimaginative.