It’s official. After seeing streaming video giants like Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix introduce hundreds of original shows, Apple has decided to throw its hat in the ring.
Given that the App Store and iTunes are enormous digital marketplaces and Apple has their own streaming device in the form of the Apple TV, this move does not come as a huge surprise.
However, one aspect of Apple’s recent announcement about their $1 billion investment in original streaming content has left quite a few eyebrows raised.
According to a Bloomberg report, Apple is planning to shy away from adult-oriented content that features graphic violence and nudity and will instead focus on tame comedies and family-oriented original programming.
Apple has Struggled to Find an Audience for its Original Content
Apple’s rigid policies have prevented previous Apple Original shows from finding an audience. Currently, Apple Music hosts only two original shows: Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps.
Planet of the Apps
The format of Planet of the Apps was similar to Shark Tank, but with an app-focused slant.
In the beginning of each show, startup founders and app developers would pitch their software applications to star-studded slate of celebrity judges, including will.i.am, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jessica Alba.
Variety said that Planet of the Apps was like “something that was developed at a cocktail party”, and called it a “bland, tepid, barely competent knock-off of ‘Shark Tank.”
By seeking to make a show that could appeal to everybody, Apple succeeded only in making a show that appealed to nobody.
Carpool Karaoke is an extremely popular segment on The Late Late Show with James Corden. The concept is quite simple – Corden and a guest share a car, sing along to a song or two, and share some banter along the way.
Apple bought the rights to James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke TV series in 2016, and distributed the show through Apple Music. The show was stretched to 20+ minutes, and Corden only starred on the first episode.
Despite star appeal from guests like Alicia Keys, Will Smith and Adele, Carpool Karaoke was a massive flop.
Critics at Variety said that Carpool Karaoke was “struggling a little to find a standalone spark”, and concluded that “without Corden, whose reliable charm keeps even stilted celebrities interesting — it’s possible that there’s just not enough content to go around.”
Other reviews were equally negative. The Guardian called it “marginally more watchable than the feeble Planet of the Apps.” TechCrunch gave an especially brutal review.
“As it stands, Carpool Karaoke is five minutes of content aimlessly attempting to fill up 20 [minutes].” – TechCrunch
In early 2017, a Carpool Karaoke episode featuring country star Blake Shelton and TV personality Chelsea Handler was deemed too offensive for Apple Music subscribers. CEO Tim Cook delayed the release of the show due to “foul references.” Tim Cook decided that this episode of Carpool Karaoke was too wild for iTunes.
Ultimately, the episode was finally aired after it was heavily edited. But this begs the question – should Tim Cook really be in charge of deciding what is (and isn’t) appropriate for a paying customer to watch?
Shouldn’t Apple Music subscribers be able to decide whether or not they can handle adult content like raunchy jokes and profanity-filled dialogue?
Will Apple Ruin Amazing Stories?
Apple’s forthcoming Amazing Stories will be a rebooted version of the original, Spielberg-directed series that aired in 1985. It will be written by Bryan Fuller, who has been behind critically-adored shows such as the sitcom Dead Like Me, the STARZ drama American Gods, and the ultra-dark NBC reboot of Hannibal.
The original show was a cult classic – but Apple’s focus on family-friendly content may prevent the Amazing Stories reboot from living up to its full potential.
Bryan Fuller is well-known for creating dark and graphic content and Hannibal is a prime example of his style. However, if Apple is overly-restrictive Amazing Stories could be toothless, flat, and uninteresting.
Why Apple Needs a Win
Apple TV has been losing ground due to stiff competition from cheaper devices like Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV Stick. A successful “Apple TV Exclusive” series could help boost flagging hardware sales.
Family friendly shows have broad appeal, so a winner in that category could help jump-start Apple’s original streaming content. On the other hand, an overly-restrictive content policy could seriously harm Apple’s future. Apple originals that are overly-sanitized and boring could have a tough time finding an audience.
So far, only Amazing Stories is the only new title that Apple has revealed – so it will likely be quite a while before we see what the future of Apple’s original content will look like.