Entertainment: Apple gets in the director’s chair
Apple is trying “to buy its way into Hollywood,” said Lucas Shaw and Mark Gurman in Bloomberg Businessweek. The iPhone maker long resisted “the messy business of producing movies and TV shows.” But as “the rise of Netflix and Spotify” coincided with declines in iPhone sales, Apple’s strategy shifted. It hired two television executives, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, to essentially build a studio from scratch. To do that, it’s letting them spend extraordinary amounts on content—including $250 million on just one drama, The Morning Show, starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. It’s also funding projects from NBA star Kevin Durant, director M. Night Shymalan, and Oprah Winfrey. “Apple’s enormous size, $100 billion cash hoard, and fat profit margins,” allow it to charge less for all this than competitors can, said Tripp Mickle and Joe Flint in The Wall Street Journal—the new Apple TV+, which debuted last week, costs subscribers only $4.99 a month. And with a new iPhone, iPad, or Mac, it’s free for a year.
“The new streaming service opens with just nine TV shows and films,” said Kelly Lawler in USA Today—and even worse, the few shows it’s offering “have the uniting factor of being rather bland and generic.” The most expensive and anticipated one is the worst of the lot; “there’s an extra sense of sadness watching a TV series that so spectacularly wastes a cast as talented as the one on The Morning Show.” But the unfunny anachronisms of Dickinson, a teen comedy about Emily Dickinson, gives it a run for its money, unless you “relish the chaos of twerking in long dresses.”
Look, “no shows are easy,” said Josef Adalian in NYMag.com. Yes, Apple is taking lumps for The Morning Show. There’s been plenty of negative gossip about Apple from Hollywood, because let’s face it, “many in Hollywood are wary of their new corporate masters.” Netflix, Amazon, and the newly AT&T-owned HBO have already blown up a lot of the business. Now one more giant company is jumping in, “So, of course, some in the town are viewing Apple with suspicion.” Despite the reviews, The Morning Show may still wind up as one of the most-watched shows of the year. “The company has seen its major media moves questioned before, only to end up proving skeptics wrong.” In the long term, what Apple is trying to do is keep consumers loyal to its whole ecosystem—music, books, the TV app, and more. And Apple is in a strong position to do that. Says one network exec, “Would I rather be at Apple than ABC? One hundred times out of 100.” ■