Yesterday, Apple ordered its first international series, Calls, adapted from a French series by the same name. It’s the latest addition to its growing pile of projects; currently the count sits at 21. The company is reportedly placing a big bet on original content, spending upwards of $1 billion this year to compete with the likes of HBO, Amazon, and Netflix. But with every day seeming like it’s bringing a new announcement of a new show coming to Apple, the question remains: where will we watch it?
Apple has already begun releasing its own projects: it released Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke last year on Apple Music, but its big slate of original content is expected to begin rolling out as early as March 2019. To prepare for that, the company has greenlit or begun developing an impressive slate of projects: so far, Apple has signed a multiyear deal with Oprah Winfrey to develop new shows, ordered a pair of children’s shows from the creators of Sesame Street, a reboot of the science fiction anthology show Amazing Stories, a Hunger Games-style dystopian show called See, a series from La La Land director Damien Chazelle, a thriller series from M. Night Shyamalan, a space drama from Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore, a drama about a morning show starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, and an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s classic science fiction novel Foundation. There are also reports that it’s working to acquire the rights for an animated film.
That’s an impressive roster, but it’s important to remember that Apple is building its catalog from the ground up. It has to catch up to streaming companies that have had years-long head starts and are currently producing hundreds of titles. And while we have dedicated platforms from heavy hitters like Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, as well as exclusive systems such as Stargate Command and CBS All Access, Apple has yet to announce exactly where any of these announced shows will debut.
While Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke both debuted on Apple Music, that platform isn’t really suited for video, and Bloomberg Businessweek reports that these new shows won’t be debuting on that service anyway. It’s also safe to assume that they won’t be coming to iTunes. The store has become a bloated mess since it launched in 2003, expanding from just music to include TV, movies, music videos, books, audiobooks, and apps, the influx of which has made it an unwieldy platform. Since then, Apple has been trying to slim it down, first by removing its App Store section last year.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg did report that Apple will begin offering subscriptions to streaming services such as CBS All Access, HBO Go, or Showtime through its TV app, and it also began streaming live news through the TV app earlier this year, so it could very well be the inevitable home for its own catalog of shows, too. This begs the question as to whether or not Apple will consolidate its TV and film offerings by shifting the movie and TV sections of its store over to its upcoming platform, as it did with the App Store: keeping its own digital content siloed off from iTunes feels counterintuitive, and could serve as an additional draw to this platform beyond just offering original content. Apple often holds product events in March, which is the target for the rollout of its first original shows, so it’s also entirely possible that a totally different platform announcement could come during a similar event.
Apple’s done well for itself when it comes to its own forays into streaming subscriptions; Apple Music recently surpassed 40 million paying subscribers, putting it on the path to eclipse Spotify in the US later this year. The obvious goal here is to entice customers to Apple’s closed ecosystem of hardware with its own content, selling subscriptions to its shows to encourage people to watch on their iPhones, iPads, and/or Apple TV, much like Apple Music and the App Store encouraged people to invest in those products. But with such a long list of shows on the way, Apple is going to have to debut a platform that’ll allow it to stand up to the likes of Netflix. (Beating Hulu and CBS All Access will pose less of a challenge.) Its offering will need to be competitive, allow users to easily find what they’re looking for, and seamlessly integrate with Apple’s hardware ecosystem.
But Apple has yet another growing roadblock: consumers who already have an overabundance of choice. Last year, Verge staffers reported a certain level of fatigue when it comes to signing up for yet another streaming service, but also that compelling original content that targets one’s specific interests would help — and that philosophy is behind the big push into original content that’s fueled the growth of Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix. Apple has an advantage here: it’s a well-established name with a solid track record, but even with that track record, it’ll come down to the quality of the shows that it produces. It has a lot going for it, with a ton of big names behind its shows, but until we see what it’s producing for us to watch, and a place to see it, it’s hard to get excited for the prospects of something like a long-in-the-making adaptation of Foundation or a new space show from Ronald D. Moore.