It’s Friday, which means, among other things, that it’s new Apple TV+ episode day; providing hours of fresh viewing to while away the first weekend of 2020.
Or, rather it would be if the well of new Apple TV+ shows wasn’t already running weirdly dry. Just 53 days since launching, Apple TV+ this week gained just two new episodes of shows — a total of 74 minutes of new content. That’s MacBook Air thin.
Apple TV+: Great quality, needs quantity
I was wrong about Apple TV+. Before it debuted, I worried that it would be safe, family friendly, middle of the road fare with no edge. Early reviews backed this up. Instead, it has been a big hit with audiences. I’m a big fan of a few of its shows. Servant, The Morning Show and For All Mankind are great. See really grew on me after a slightly so-so first episode. Truth Be Told isn’t top-drawer in terms of quality, but it’s compelling enough. And there’s plenty more great stuff to come.
Which is why it’s a bit strange that all’s gone a bit quiet on the Apple TV+ front. Apple’s decision to roll out many (though not all) of its shows one episode at a time seemed a smart choice. No, it wasn’t in keeping with Netflix’s binge watching selling point. But it did offer a way to reduce churn by stopping customers from all tuning in on week one, watching everything, and then unsubscribing. As someone who loves discussing water cooler shows, the one episode-per-week approach also seemed a good way to drum up buzz about certain shows. Suddenly, we had to wait a week to see the resolution of cliffhangers.
Now it’s just looking more like it was an attempt to stretch out an incredibly thin lineup of content. It’s like that joke from The Wedding Singer, where Adam Sandler’s character steps outside, leaving backup singer George to take the stage. With just one song in his repertoire, George simply sings it over and over; the crowd growing more hostile.
Just 74 new minutes this week
This week, for the second week running, Apple TV+ debuted just one new episode of Servant and Truth Be Told. The flagship series which launched with Apple TV+ have already finished. Second seasons are on the way, but we’ll be waiting a few months. And other content is just “coming soon.”
This week’s episode of Truth Be Told (episode 7: “Live Thru This”) is 45 minutes long. This week’s episode of Servant (Episode 8: “Boba”) is 29 minutes. Together, that’s less running time than even a short movie.
It’s bafflingly little content at a time of year which, in theory, is one of the biggest weekends for Apple TV+ of the year. The holidays are when lots of people receive new iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple TVs as gifts. Those come with a year of free Apple TV+ included. But when they tune in they’re not exactly overwhelmed by possibilities of things to watch. And nothing seems to be imminent for the coming weeks either.
It’s all very confusing. $4.99 per month (if you didn’t buy a new Apple device) seemed an aggressive price point for Apple TV+. It undercut Netflix, the new Disney+ service, and others. Now it seems a bit steep. Apple TV+ has so far nailed the quality of its shows. But it could sure do with a bit of quantity to go with it.