Will Apple’s Family-friendly Approach to Original Content Actually Work?
By Daniel Barna
When Apple announced that it was sinking $1 billion into its nascent original video content division, our assumption was that the tech giant was planning an all out assault on Netflix and Hulu, the two companies with the biggest advantage in the ongoing streaming wars.
But a recent report from Bloomberg suggests that instead of coming after the audiences of its rivals, Apple is looking to cultivate its own audience by investing in family friendly fare in the mold of NBC’s mega-hit This is Us. That means no nudity, no violence and no swearing for any Apple-produced shows—at least for now.
According to the report, “Apple isn’t interested in the types of shows that become hits on HBO or Netflix, like Game of Thrones.” Part of that thinking is that Apple’s users are multi-generational, and executives are concerned that kids might be inadvertently exposed to adult material, especially for its first batch of shows, which the company plans on releasing across all Apple devices.
But perhaps there’s something more strategic at work here. Apple is new to the world of original television programming, so the likelihood of it stumbling on and then developing a pop culture sensation in the mold of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead—two ultra-violent shows that also happen to be among the most watched on television—is unlikely. By narrowing its potential content pool to “family shows,” Apple is betting that its success rate will be higher than that of Netflix, whose quantity-over-quality approach has only yielded a handful of genuinely needle-moving hits.
So far, Apple’s attempts at producing its own content hasn’t gone too well. The reality show, Planet of The Apps, debuted to little fanfare, while the Late Late Show spin-off, Carpool Karaoke, has failed to generate the same excitement that made the original such a sensation.
In fact, it looks like even Carpool Karaoke has proven too risqué for Apple’s top brass. In April, news broke that the hotly anticipated show was being delayed, and now we know why. According to the Bloomberg report, some of the humor and language proved too crude for Apple CEO Tim Cook. In fact, an episode featuring Chelsea Handler and Blake Shelton almost didn’t air because Cook thought it was too “raunchy.”
If something as milquetoast as Carpool Karaoke is enough to make Apple executives feel uneasy, maybe Apple will be even more conservative in its search for content then it’s letting on. That ethos should prove interesting when applied to its upcoming Amazing Stories reboot.
The original anthology series was created by Steven Spielberg three decades ago and featured an impressive list of collaborators like Robert Zemeckis, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese. Each episode was a contained story that had elements of horror, fantasy and science fiction. Fans hoping for an edgier take on the show will likely be disappointed by Apple’s version, which should skew towards Spielberg’s early-career PG-rated sensibilities. We’ll see whether audiences will buy into Apple’s content strategy in 2019, when its first slate of shows become available for streaming. But if there’s one brand we shouldn’t bet against, it’s this one.