This coming Tuesday Apple is set to debut its newest original TV show Carpool Karaoke: The Series, but with Planet of the Apps being such a dud, some of us at Cult of Mac are questioning whether Apple has anything to gain by making mediocre TV shows.
During Apple’s Q3 earnings call this week, Tim Cook said Apple will continue to explore original content for Apple Music. Can Apple actually make great TV shows, or is it losing focus on what’s more important?
Join us in this week’s Friday Night Fight as we discuss Apple’s media ambitions:
Luke: Buster, Apple’s been messing around with original content for a while now — and I’m getting pretty sick of writing that it’s “dipping its toe” into the field. The truth is that Apple’s well into its original programming drive. The problem is that most of it sucks, at least compared to the efforts of rivals. Netflix and Amazon are storming ahead with their original shows, while Apple creates rubbish like Planet of the Apps and assorted hip hop documentaries. It’s not compelling to watch, and it seems more like the kind of corporate original content Microsoft would have made in the 1990s instead of something the once effortlessly-hip Apple would be behind. What’s your verdict on it all
Buster: Ditch it. A TV show about app developers starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Will.i.am isn’t doing anything for Apple’s bottom. If anything, it shows the company isn’t focused on what’s important.
Does the world really need more mediocre TV?
Luke: I can’t help but feel that Apple’s definitely messed up when two Apple fans whose job involves writing about Apple can’t find much nice to say about this. People are going to say “shows like Planet of the Apps aren’t necessarily for you, they’re for the mainstream audience,” but the fact is that I’ve heard none of my non-tech bubble friends talking about it, either. Can you imagine someone saying “House of Cards isn’t for the Netflix early adopters?” Of course not. Where I would differ from you is in saying that Apple should ditch it. It shouldn’t. It should change its strategy and improve what it offers. Original TV content is 100 percent in Apple’s DNA. It’s just that Apple, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, is holding it wrong (well, executing it wrong) right now.
Buster: Planet of the Apps fans are as rare as Windows Phone users. When Apple’s doing something so silly you’d expect it to come from Microsoft, that’s probably a good sign to switch it up. There’s no benefit in TV shows for Apple. It should focus on creating a decent Apple TV.
Luke: I do agree that it says a lot that Apple views original programming as an added extra for Apple Music. But if Apple can create a proper Apple TV, wouldn’t original programming be a key part of that?
Buster: Why? Do TV shows sell TVs? Apple didn’t need to become a record label in order to create a compelling reason to buy an iPod. It’s hard to see how the TV shows pay off if Apple doesn’t want to become Netflix.
Luke: But that’s my point: Apple was perfectly poised to become Netflix. Back in the 1980s, Apple’s QuickTime was one of the first pieces of software to allow users to play video on their computers. In the 1990s, Apple’s trailer website became the place to watch movie trailers. In the 2000s, Apple revolutionized distribution by offering movies and TV shows through iTunes, and was the first company to offer digital downloads on the same day of release as DVDs. If Apple had acted sooner, it could certainly have challenged Netflix in the streaming game. Right now, it’s clear that it wants to be in the television game, but in order to do that you have to produce original content. It’s all about exclusives, and shows like House of Cards or The Crown aren’t just nice “added extras” for Netflix, they’re primary drivers in getting people to subscribe. Apple’s missing out by not getting involved. It’s certainly got the money to produce some original shows that would put its rivals to shame…
Buster: Apple could have challenged Netflix with the streaming technology. But making good TV shows is totally different than creating QuickTime and posting other people’s trailers on your website.
Luke: But Apple’s also long been the favorite company of creators and artists. And let’s not forget Apple’s ties with the likes of Pixar. Netflix and Amazon had a much harder climb to get to where they are now. I’m just saying that Apple shouldn’t throw in the towel. Totally reimagine what it’s doing with said towel? Yes. But throw it in? No way. Even though it’s tempting whenever it makes a new show with Gwyneth Paltrow as an app development expert.
Buster: Just cause you’re cool with artists doesn’t make you one yourself. Otherwise, Eddy Cue would be the most bad ass mother fucker on the planet, instead of a dorky uncle type of dude. Jony Ive and his team are artists with design, but media is totally different. Apple has great ads but those are made by ad agencies. Be the best platform not the best producer. Instead of trying to make the next House of Cards, Apple should let everyone else try. There’s already a glut of TV shows that would take you a lifetime to binge.
Luke: Interesting point — although Apple has done more ad production itself in the last couple of years. I just don’t think being a platform is enough nowadays. Everyone offers the same movies and the same shows. Whether Apple wants to take on Netflix and Amazon or set-top box makers, it needs something to set itself apart. And I don’t think the answer is just going to be a Siri remote or an app-based interface. Here in 2017, you need to be a producer as well as a provider, and Apple’s got all the tools to make a success of it.
But we’ve both made our points. Let’s turn it over to readers.
Do you think Apple should ditch its original programming ambitions? Are you the elusive Planet of the Apps fan out there? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And have a great weekend.