On the Advent of Apple’s Original TV Content

The thoughts I’m about to capture on this page started with this tweet from The Outline.

Apple’s new venture into the world of original content is off to a dispiccable start. Even an Apple engineer took to Twitter to announce his disappointment which is pretty damning for a high profile company, especially one that people are often proud to work for.

What Apple is doing

Apple’s trying to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon by producing original TV shows for the Apple TV… no, Apple Music (wut?) platform. And their first show is called “Planet of the Apps”.

From what I’ve gathered, Planet of the Apps basically follows a Shark Tank / Dragons’ Den format where a developer comes up to a panel of investors and pitches their idea for an app in hopes of getting some financial backing in exchange for sharing a stake in the app’s design with the investor.

My thoughts

Now, I haven’t watched it. But I’m not writing this to talk about how bad the actual show is. I’m actually a little confused as to why Apple chose to go with reality shows, and with existing popular formats no less. The next show they’re planing on launching is Carpool Karaoke, a format based on a pretty entertaining gimmick on The Late Late Show with James Corden, where James drives his guests, usually (but not always) a singer, around in a car singing along to songs on the radio in between conversations.

So another reality TV show that transplants an existing popular format, but with different talent. The reason I’m a little confused by this is that I’ve always seen Apple, among its peers, to be the one that’s all about empowering artists and their creativity.

The Mac was promoted as being the computer for artists and content creators (random fact: Photoshop started life on the Mac); iTunes was about giving musicians a platform to sell music digitally in the age of increasingly easy piracy; the “Shot on iPhone” campaign gives a fair amount of importance to the photographer along with the phone; Apple make their own suite of software for editing photos, video and audio on both Mac and iPad, which gives the latter a fairly decent shot as legitimising itself as a decent laptop replacement despite a very young operating system; and this year when Apple announced VR support on Mac, they didn’t demo a game, but instead brought a programmer from ILMxLAB to create VR scenes while being immersed in that VR landscape. (Skip to 38:10 in the below video to see this, or 39:05 to skip the introductions.)

WWDC 2017 Source: Apple, YouTube

The point is that I always imagined the first Apple original TV shows to be from storytellers where Apple would promote the content almost as if it were one of their products while somehow connecting the story to what inspires them as a company (that might be a bit of a stretch on my part). I also felt that Apple’s vast bank balance could afford them some really talented TV producers and story tellers.

But what I’m seeing are nearly 1:1 rehashes of existing reality TV content (hardly “original” content, is it?). I’m not sure what Apple has in mind for the future of the “Apple Music” TV platform, but I’m hoping that these initial shows were forced out due to some internal pressures or are some kind of low-effort beta test of the platform and system surrounding it before scaling up with more interesting content.

I’m generally not in favour of any kind of content being exclusive to certain platforms, and that’s no different here, but I expected a little more (more originality, even) from a company that prides itself on empowering creators.

TL;DR

Apple’s original content isn’t very original and are rehashes of existing reality TV shows. I always imagined Apple’s first venture into original TV content to be (original ideas notwithstanding) something along the lines of a fictional TV drama or a series based on a true-life story produced by talented film makers and storytellers. Hoping there’s a good reason for these low-effort (but high production value) shows and that something better is on the way.