After over a year of speculation, Apple finally announced its plans for a new subscription-based video streaming service — Apple TV+ — on Monday at its headquarters in Cupertino, California. It will be available globally in over 100 countries, including India, in autumn 2019. Apple TV+ will offer original series, movies, and documentaries from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, J.J Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Kumail Nanjiani among others. It will be a part of Apple’s redesigned TV app, which will be released in May, with availability expanding from 10 countries to over 100. What Apple left out at its event was the pricing for Apple TV+, which it said would come later.
While it’s tempting to draw parallels between Apple’s new streaming offering and international big-hitters such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, it’s worth noting that Apple didn’t talk about licensed programming at all. Instead, Apple said that the new TV app would — apart from the aforementioned originals — house your entire iTunes-purchased film library, aside from offering streamlined access to other channels and streaming services (in the US), including Prime Video, HBO, Hulu, FX, ESPN, NBC, Showtime, Starz, and Eros Now among others. There’s currently no word on whether Apple TV Channels will be available in countries such as India. Apple said that users would “only pay for the channels [they] want” but it didn’t offer any specifics.
During the presentation, Apple also announced that the new TV app would be coming to Mac, smart TVs made by Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio via apps and AirPlay 2, and the likes of Roku and Fire TV. With Apple’s market share hovering at about 1 percent in India, Apple TV+ would do well to be available outside of Apple platforms, but it’s not painting a promising picture. Asking viewers to buy new TVs to watch shows and films is laughable, and Apple has betrayed a terrible slowness with its Amazon devices experience. Apple Music is only available on Amazon Echo and Fire TV in the US (and coming soon to the UK), which suggests a similar fate for Apple TV+.
In such a scenario, Apple TV+ already looks like an also-ran in India’s relatively nascent yet competitive video streaming market, which is led by local players in Hotstar (now owned by Disney), ALTBalaji, Eros Now, Voot, and ZEE5 among others. Moreover, Apple isn’t the only international player making its foray into the video streaming space this year or the next. The likes of Disney, WarnerMedia, and NBCUniversal are also preparing for the future, and all of them have a sizeable back catalogue to tempt audiences globally unlike Apple.
No wonder then that Apple CEO Tim Cook and his peers, including Apple TV+ heads Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, stressed the importance of having “great storytellers” on board at the event on Monday. Heck, Apple even made a five-minute video to do more of that, with the likes of Spielberg, Abrams, Witherspoon, Aniston, Sofia Coppola, M. Night Shyamalan, Ron Howard, Octavia Spencer, Damien Chazelle, and Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee) talking about their filmmaking processes. Apple even trotted out several of them on stage, alongside stars such as Oprah, Nanjiani, Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Alfre Woodard (Luke Cage), singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, and even The Muppets to hype up their respective upcoming original offerings.
In doing so, Apple confirmed a bunch of the reported two dozen series currently in the works. There’s the Spielberg-produced reboot of the sci-fi anthology series Amazing Stories. Spielberg provided the only details we have, with one of the episodes dealing with a WWII pilot who travels through time and space to present day. Then there’s morning news show drama The Morning Show starring Witherspoon, Aniston, and Steve Carell. Momoa and Woodard star in the fantasy drama See, set in a future where humanity has lived without sight for so long that it’s disputed whether mankind ever had sight in the first place.
Nanjiani introduced his written-and-produced series, Little America, a show about the everyday lives of immigrants. One such story will be about a 12-year-old Indian boy living in Utah, who secretly runs a motel that was his parents’ dream after they are deported. Meanwhile, he’s also fighting to get his parents back, which somehow involves competing in the National Spelling Bee and meeting Laura Bush, the former First Lady of the US. Nanjiani stressed on the importance of telling such stories, noting that “the immigrant dream is the American dream”.
The Muppets’ Big Bird and Cody unveiled a Sesame Street spin-off series for pre-school kids called The Helpsters, in which Cody will star and teach kids how to code. Abrams and Bareilles came on stage to talk about Little Voice, a comedy-drama about the reality of a promising, flawed young New York artist who has to find her voice as an artist and as a person. Bareilles played the show’s theme song live on stage. Oprah closed out the celebrity-driven presentations by promising two documentaries: Toxic Labor, which deals with sexual harassment in the workplace and seems timed for our #MeToo era; and a series on mental health, which will explore how “depression, anxiety, addiction and trauma are devastating lives around the globe”. Oprah will also start a new book club for Apple.
In a separate video, Apple confirmed the existence of several other reported series such as Dear…, For All Mankind, Home Before Dark, Dickinson, Truth Be Told, Servant, and Mythic Quest. Hala, the film it acquired at Sundance, also made an appearance.
Beyond the Hollywood stars that showed up on stage or in video, Apple also announced a list of additional creators, over 80 names long, it’s working with during the event. That includes the likes of Joel Kinnaman, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ewan McGregor, Jon Favreau, Aaron Paul, Spike Lee, Jessie Nelson, Rupert Grint, Matt Weaver, Morten Tyldum, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Tituss Burgess, Tim McKeon, Edward Kitsis, Jason Sudekis, Ryan White, Toby Kebbell, Billy Crudup, Justin Lin, Alena Smith, Ben Nedivi, Mark Duplass, Mark Deeble, Nathaniel Rich, Kerry Ehrin, Ben Stiller, Neil Cross, Loren Bouchard, Lee Eisenberg, Octavia Spencer, Ian Orefice, Emily V. Gordon, and Stanley Tucci.
David S. Goyer, Brooklynn Prince, Steve Carell, J.J. Johnson, Morgan Neville, Damien Chazelle, Dara Resnik, Jane Krakowski, Tony Basgallop, Sara Bareilles, Jennifer Garner, Nichelle Tramble Spellman, Mikkel Nørgaard, Ron Howard, Jennifer Aniston, Soo Hugh, Reese Witherspoon, Lizzy Caplan, Victoria Stone, Alan Yang, Rob McElhenney, Doug Pray, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Philip Hunt, Kevin Durant, Charlie Brown, Michelle Dockery, Brian Grazer, Jason Momoa, Lauren Ambrose, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Gere, Maverick Carter, Francis Lawrence, and Jane Goodall are also involved.
As are Jon M. Chu, Snoopy, Steven Knight, Andrew Orestein, Hailee Steinfeld, M. Night Shyamalan, Alfre Woodard, R.J. Cutler, Sofia Coppola, Josh Gad, Karen Croner, Warren Leight, Kathryn Hahn, Howard Gordon, Gloria Steinem, Nestor Carbonell, Mark Bomback, Adam Horowitz, Bill Murray, Oliver Jeffers, David Gordon Green, Jason Katims, Daveed Diggs, Jon Steinberg, Luke Matheny, Ronald D. Moore, Misty Copeland, Matt Woplert, Rashida Jones, Aly Raisman, Kristen Bell, Leslie Odom Jr., Mimi Leder, Simon Kingberg, Seth Gordon, Dana Fox, and Minhal Baig.
Disclosure: Apple sponsored the correspondent’s flights and hotel for the trip to Cupertino.