Apple plans to take on the Netflixes of this world with its own streaming service.
According to numerous reports from the past few years, Apple has been tinkering away on a television service. It wants this upcoming service to showcase its original TV shows, much like Netflix does with its Netflix Originals, while also allowing subscriptions to other content all within the same Apple service.
Here is the latest news on its progress.
Apple TV service launch date
- 25 March 2019 event booked
- Suspected it might be a US only launch
Apple has invited the media to an event to be held on 25 March 2019. The invitation is clearly for a TV-related event, with the tagline reading "it's showtime".
There has long been rumours that Apple would be hosting this event with a number of high-profile guests from Hollywood, who will likely take to the stage to talk about their projects and programmes that will be appearing on the new service.
Exactly when the Apple TV service will go live hasn't yet been confirmed. It also hasn't been confirmed where the service will be launching - we suspect it might be US-only to begin with. Often content providers find that launching in multiple-regions is difficult because of the deals needed for each different territory - although it's ultimately expected to be a global service.
How much will Apple's TV streaming service cost?
According to The Information and CNBC, Apple's original content will be made available for free to Apple device owners. The service might also be bundled with an Apple Music subscription and a digital magazine and news subscription. Bloomberg, however, claimed that the shows and movies either purchased or funded by Apple won't be available for free, contrary to past reporting.
Also, Apple is reportedly requesting a 30 per cent slice from cable providers on every subscription that comes from its TV service. That means customers will need to subscribe (and pay extra) to add-on services like Starz, Showtime, and Viacom if they want to watch their content.
What's the story so far?
Cable bundle ambitions
Apple has been struggling for many years - time and time again - to revamp the TV-watching experience, trying to ink deals with cable companies and movie studios. The first reports claimed Apple wanted to provide a cable bundle, or a set of standalone channel packages, for around $30 to $40 per month. It was reportedly difficult to negotiate with, and ultimately, its lofty goals stalled.
With the service set to be announced in March 2019, however, some progress has been made.
For the new service, however, CNBC has claimed that some cable content providers are still not participating. HBO may not be participating due to disagreements over data sharing and revenue splits and Hulu isn't expected to participate, either. Netflix has gone as far as confirming that it's going to be part of Apple's new service.
Starz, Showtime, and Viacom - smaller networks without their own streaming platforms - are all expected to made available through Apple's service. That provides them with wide distribution for programming, but Apple will likely take a heavy cut of subscription revenue, as much as 30 per cent, as is the case with the App Store.
Following Netflix's footsteps
More recently, Apple shifted its focus to the tvOS App Store, so that the film and TV industry could directly offer their own services to customers via apps, though Apple retained control of the watching experience and overall user interface. It has also begun to follow in Netflix's footsteps by pursuing original content, with over a dozen shows in the works.
The company is reportedly developing high-caliber shows like Westworld, investing over $1 billion throughout 2017 and 2018. Its first original television show, Planet of the Apps, which debuted in June 2017, features a Shark Tank-style format, pairing app developers with potential investors. Its second show, Carpool Karaoke: The Series, is based on the popular segment from The Late Late Show With James Corden.
Testing the waters with Apple Music
Oddly, both of Apple's first shows premiered via Apple Music and are used to promote the music service. Though, in May 2018, Apple made one of the shows available for free through the TV app.
'Completely all in'
To head up its deep push into original content, Apple hired former Sony Pictures TV executives Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, who helped produce shows like Better Call Saul. Former Amazon Studios executive Morgan Wandell also joined Apple's team. They all report directly to Apple iTunes chief Eddy Cue, who said in February 2018 that Apple is "completely all in" on original content and that "money isn't an issue".
New services and hardware partnerships
Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC’s Mad Money host Jim Cramer that Apple will announce new "services" in 2019. Although Cook didn't say what type of services, this is notable because it follows a series of announcements from TV manufacturers revealing they are suddenly supporting Apple's AirPlay 2 and HomeKit.
Such support means you will be able to cast content directly from your Apple device. Plus, new TVs from Samsung, LG and Sony will support iTunes soon, letting you access your movies and TV shows. If you link all these moves together, it'd be easy to assume Apple is laying the groundwork to launch its TV service that'll be accessible from its own devices and other hardware.
How will you watch Apple's original content?
Apple TV app
A delivery mechanism for Apple's new service remains unclear. It might be accessible through Apple's TV app, which is available on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. The app currently lets you browse content from over 100 video services. It's still not clear how Apple's original content will be positioned alongside this content from third-party video services.
But, if you look at the Amazon Prime Video app, it lets you access Amazon's own content with a Prime subscription. It also lets you subscribe to premium channels from third parties like HBO Now and Cinemax. Does Apple plan to offer a similar experience? We still don't know.
Will all Apple's content be family friendly?
Apple is targeting a broad audience. It's reportedly avoiding content with nudity, raw language, and violence. It even had a dispute with Amazing Stories showrunner Bryan Fuller over its wishes to produce family-friendly content. It also shelved Vital Signs, a semi-autobiographical show about hip hop artist Dr. Dre, as Apple CEO Tim Cook was said to be "troubled" by scenes showing guns, sex, and drug use.
Apple has maintained this line through apps it offers too, so makes sense that Apple will continue to be family friendly.
Apple's original content lineup: Shows
Apple has more than a dozen original television shows in the works. Here's a look at the full lineup so far:
Apple partnered with Amblin Television and NBC Universal TV to create new episodes of sci-fi series Amazing Stories, which originally ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987. Once Upon a Time' co-creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis are the executive producers and showrunners.
Untitled morning talk show drama
This will be a morning talk show drama starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell. The show is billed as an "inside look at the lives of the people who help America wake up in the morning." Apple has inked a deal for two seasons of the show, which is untitled still.
Apple picked up an untitled space drama developed by Ronald D. Moore, best known for the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica. The show will "explore what would have happened if the global space race had never ended" and stars several actors including Joel Kinnaman.
Are You Sleeping
Apple ordered 10 episodes of a drama called Are You Sleeping, based on a novel by Kathleen Barber. It explores how the reopening of a murder case affects the victim's daughter. It will star Octavia Spencer, known for Hidden Figures, and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad.
Home is a docuseries that explores extraordinary homes in the world. It sounds like MTV's Cribs meets Architectural Digest. Apple has ordered 10 one-hour episodes of the Home docuseries, which is produced by Matt Tynauer and Corey Reese of Altimeter Films.
See is an epic world-building drama that's set in the future. It's written by Steven Knight, known for Peaky Blinders and Francis Lawrence, known for The Hunger Games franchise, and will star Jason Momoa in the lead role of Baba Voss, a warrior, leader, and guardian.
You Think It, I'll Say It Comedy comedy
Apple ordered 10 episodes of a half-hour comedy show based on the You Think It, I'll Say It short story compilation by Curtis Sittenfeld, which "upends assumptions about class, relationships, and gender roles in a nation that feels both adrift and viscerally divided."
Untitled drama series from Damien Chazelle
Apple picked up a drama series from La La Land creator Damien Chazelle. He will write and direct every episode of the series.
Little America will look at "the funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring, and unexpected lives of immigrants in America". It's written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, known for The Big Sick, and Lee Eisenberg, who is known for his work on The Office.
Swagger is a drama series based on the life of NBA star and Golden State Warriors player Kevin Durant. Imagine Television, led by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, will produce it, alongside Kevin Durant's Thirty Five Media. Both Durant and Grazer will serve as executive producers.
M. Night Shyamalan thriller
Apple ordered a psychological thriller written by Tony Basgallop and produced by M. Night Shyamalan, who is best known for movies like Signs and Split. The first episode of the series will be directed by Shyamalan. Apple has ordered 10 episodes, and each one will be a half hour long.
Central Park animated musical
Central Park an animated TV series developed by Loren Bouchard, well-known for popular cartoon Bob's Burgers. It's actually a musical comedy about a family of caretakers who live in Central Park and end up saving both the park and the world. It stars Josh Gad, among others.
Isaac Asimov's Foundation
Apple is working on a TV series adaptation of the popular sci-fi series Foundation written by sci-fi author Isaac Asimov. It's about psychohistory expert Hari Seldon, who can predict the future and attempts to preserve humanity's knowledge ahead of the Empire's impending fall.
Apple picked up a show about the life of famous American poet Emily Dickinson, set to be played by Hailee Steinfeld. It'll be a comedic look into Dickinson's world. Jane Krakowski, known for roles in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock, will also star as Emily's mother.
Little Voices dramedy
Little Voices is a half-hour dramedy from executive producers JJ Abrams and Sara Bareilles. It's described as a love letter to "the diverse musicality of New York," as it will explore the lives of several characters in their 20s as they try to find their "authentic voice."
Apple is working on a TV adaptation of Gregory David Roberts' 2003 novel Shantaram, which focuses on a character named Lin, a convict that escapes an Australian prison. American Hustle screenwriter Eric Warren Singer will serve as showrunner and executive producer.
Hilde Lysiak drama
Apple ordered 10 episodes of a drama series about Hilde Lysiak, a child journalist who publishes a newspaper in her hometown in Pennsylvania. She unearths a cold case that everyone else in the town had attempted to bury. Child actress Brooklyn Price will star in the show.
Apple ordered an English-language adaptation of French series Calls. It's a short-form series that tells stories based on snippets of audio taken from real-life situations. Many episodes fall into the horror and mystery sub-genres, and will likely use minimal visuals.
Apple secured the rights to create a TV show based on Min Jin Lee's novel Pachinko, which follows the lives of four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family in Japan staring in 1911. It will be written and produced by Soo Hugh, who is best known for The Killing.
Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day video game comedy
Apple has ordered a half-hour scripted comedy show created by Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day, who are best known for popular comedy show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The show is set in a video game development studio, and McElhenney will be one of the show's stars.
Losing Earth Climate Change Project
Apple purchased the rights to develop a New York Times Magazine story (Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change). It covers the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989, when "humanity settled the science of climate change and came surprisingly close to finding a solution."
Defending Jacob drama
Apple picked up drama series Defending Jacob, which will star Chris Evans, known for his roles in Captain America and The Avengers. It's a thriller based on William Landay's bestselling novel and covers the murder of a 14-year-old boy and his friend and suspect Jacob.
Apple's original content lineup: Movies
In addition to multiple TV shows, Apple has started acquiring the rights to select films.
The Elephant Queen
Apple acquired rights to The Elephant Queen, a documentary about an elephant matriarch who leads her herd to find a new watering hole.
Wolfwalkers is an animated film from Cartoon Saloon. It is set in Ireland, where Robyn, an Irish girl, is trying to kill demonic, evil wolves until she meets a wild native girl, named Mebh, whose friendship helps her to discover and understand the world of the Wolfwalkers.
Apple's original content lineup: Partnerships
In addition to TV show and movies, Apple has inked a couple partnerships.
Apple announced a multi-year production partnership with Oprah Winfrey in May 2018. It's teaming up with Oprah to create original programs that "embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world".
Apple is partnering with Sesame Workshop to create different television shows for kids, including live-action, puppet, and animated shows.