Some Apple Employees Think Company's New TV Service Will Be Dull As Nails

from the more-of-the-same dept

Like many companies, Apple has been trying to disrupt the traditional television sector for years. But like countless companies before it, Apple has repeatedly run face-first into a cable and broadcast industry that’s aggressively resistant to actual change. As a result, Apple’s efforts to launch a TV service have been comically delayed for years as cable and broadcast companies (worried that what Apple did to the music industry would also happen to the TV sector) tightly restricted how their content could be used if the approach varies too far from accepted industry norms.

So despite Steve Jobs insisting that Apple had “cracked the code” on a next-gen TV set as early as 2011 — and efforts to strike licensing deals that have been ongoing since at least 2012 — nothing much has really come from Apple’s promised revolution on the television front.

In the years since, numerous streaming providers (Dish’s Sling TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Sony’s Playstation Vue) have jumped into the sector, and Apple is definitely a late arrival. As such, the looming TV service Apple appears poised to launch seems to be very much a derivative offering that isn’t likely to disrupt the sector all that much. A report in the Wall Street Journal (paywall, see Gizmodo’s alt. take) notes that Apple has set aside $1 billion for original programming, but Tim Cook’s fears that the service could tarnish Apple’s pure brand image appear to be causing some notable problems.

The report noted how at least one project fled to Amazon after Apple tried to tightly restrict the show’s political commentary. And the kind of comically inconsistent restrictions that tend to plague Apple’s app store appear to have made their way to the company’s looming TV service, including a ban on, of all things, crosses:

“Apple signed a deal for a series made by M. Night Shyamalan about a couple who lose a young child.

Before saying yes to that psychological thriller, Apple executives had a request: Please eliminate the crucifixes in the couple?s house, said people working on the project. They said executives made clear they didn?t want shows that venture into religious subjects or politics. Mr. Shyamalan wasn?t available for comment.

Of course that’s the exact opposite tack taken by streaming providers like Netflix or Amazon, which have increasingly turned to original, more edgy fare to help set themselves apart from the traditional networks. As a long list of recent awards make pretty clear, that approach is certainly working out ok. Given Apple’s more cautious approach, some employees have taken to making fun of the looming service:

“One agent said some members of Apple?s team in Los Angeles began calling themselves ?expensive NBC.”

Of course this being Apple, it’s entirely possible that nobody cares that Apple’s original content lineup lacks any rough edges, and fans are likely to line up and buy the product anyway. It’s also certainly possible to create a high-quality platform with largely G-rated fare. That said, this sounds nothing like the TV revolution Apple has promised for the better part of the last decade, and too much interference with the creative process isn’t likely to help keep talent around as Apple’s never-ending quest to upend the TV apple cart stumbles forward.

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Comments on “Some Apple Employees Think Company's New TV Service Will Be Dull As Nails”

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James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Missed Opportunity: Defrag the Industry!

Its possible a premium service might be able to afford to break the logjam of fragmented content.

That said, Apple had the money to do that 5 years ago as much as today. They likely couldn’t break the exclusive content logjam. That’s why those billions are going into original, exclusive content. So it looks like its just another streaming variant – not the game changer we have been promised. Combined with numerous reports of sanitized content creation…it is not looking good. This is from someone who admits they prefer Apple even when it is not the seemingly better option due to brand goodwill.

The core issue is that at this point, the disruptive phase came and went. Apple is great at introducing popular and/or disruptive technology into early markets. It is less successful at entering established markets without a disruptive move.

If apple succeeds at breaking the Logjam, great. And it would be a great start. But they can’t get Comcast to let me integrate my Xfinity credentials with the TV app to do single sign on – how are they going to get a bunch more content companies to do their bidding? Apple had leverage with iTunes thanks to the iPod. They don’t have that leverage with content companies who already have their own fiefdoms.

Christenson says:

Re: Re: Missed Opportunity: Defrag the Industry!

OK, here’s the Elon Musk calculation:
Everybody pays Apple a premium…so Apple gets the market power to go to Netflix and pay them per episode to show netflix exclusive content….

Now, of course, to make that work, some factors need to converge that might never be too real:
** A right of first sale for video content
** A requirement (like a public accomodation law) that carriers service all comers without discrimination.
** Apple waving around a fat enough wad of rabid fans in front of Netflix to make it worthwhile. (That might also be a bad thing from the standpoint of market power).

MontereyBay says:

Re: Re: Logjam ?

“….. able to afford to break the logjam of fragmented content….”

This alleged “logjam” seems rather vague.

TV contents is mostly purchased from multitudes of “independent” creative people. The established networks (broadcast & cable) either hire these people directly or contract them (if they are organized into production companies),

If you have the money — then anyone should be able to hire these creative people and their TV products. It’s just normal business of buyers and sellers.

Apple has the means to deliver content and the money to buy all the content it wants — so exactly what is this “logjam” claimed to be paralyzing Apple Management ??

Christenson says:

Re: Re: Re: Logjam ?

The Logjam isn’t Apple’s — It is the industry’s or the consumer’s, expressed as Why do I need to spend ANOTHER $20 per month for ONE thing I actually want to watch and a bazillion I don’t?

Even if each of these new streamers is nearly free, account management adds friction for a consumer, especially when we can assume our data WILL be hacked. Friction because each of Hulu, Netflix, Disney, and Apple have one show “everyone” wants to watch is real and can easily drive piracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Missed Opportunity: Defrag the Industry!

Isn’t that cable’s model exactly? Except with streamed on-demand content instead of a program schedule? How would such a service operate at a lower price point than cable if every viewer had every show available? Streaming services are cheaper than cable precisely because they offer less content (and/or less popular content). You’re basically asking for Comcast but everything on-demand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Missed Opportunity: Defrag the Industry!

The real opportunity here would be for a premium (it is Apple, after all) service that pulls in essentially everything worth watching..

That requires that content owners are willing to let other have a share of the profits, along with reduces control over distribution. Netflix and Amazon et al. are suffering because they all think they can charge the same as Netflix, and everybody will pay all of them. Producing their own content is a reaction to the legacy players pulling their content to run their own streaming services, and increasing piracy is the public’s response to the fragmentation.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why are you complaining? They’re just trying to make it match the rest of their product line.

He isn’t complaining, he is engaging in commentary on how many people feel that the service is going to be bland. Which is something I’ve been reading about, seems like they are shooting themselves in the foot before they even start.

John85851 (profile) says:

Apple will have the most watched show in the history of mankind

Here’s the thing with Apple: no matter what show they debut, it will be the most watched show, ever, in the history of mankind. Not because it’s ground-breaking or excellent quality, but because Apple will automatically download it to every user’s device.

Then Apple will make the claim that 500 million people downloaded their show; sure, no one had a choice, but it was still a download. Then even if only half the people watch it, that’s still 250 million people. How does that compare to the Super Bowl or the moon landing?
Yet this would be the viewership for a bland comedy or drama that would be too generic for the regular networks.

And before you laugh at this idea, it’s exactly what Apple did with the U2 album a few years ago: they automatically added it to everyone’s devices and then claimed it was the most downloaded album ever.

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