November 1st marks the first anniversary of Apple TV+, the video streaming service initially announced by Apple on March 25th 2019, before launching to around 100 countries over seven months later.
So, is TV+ just another streaming service? What should it be known for? How has it evolved so far?
One year on, what actually IS Apple TV+?
Apple TV+ launched to a lot of fanfare only days before Disney launched its streaming service, Disney+. Disney launched with their massive back catalogue. They also had a few new originals, but they were all very low-key, except for The Mandalorian. Disney’s approach was simple; throw an absolutely massive amount of content online, charge a low price and get lots of subscribers.
HBO also launched their service, HBO Max, this year. It was a strange service that confused a lot of people by being both HBO the channel and also not. They had the advantage of an incredible, high-quality back catalogue but at $15.99 and only being available in America, their reach was limited.
The other big players, of course, are Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Netflix releases many new titles every week with an extensive back catalogue. Hulu has a substantial collection of TV catchup and originals but is, like HBO, restricted to America. Amazon isn’t that far behind, but their Prime TV service has never been anything more than something to get people onto the shopping site. Not that it doesn’t have some great content.
Then there’s Apple.
In the March 2019 announcement, Apple called TV+ ‘the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers’ and ‘unlike anything that has ever been done before’ and don’t forget ‘not just another streaming service’. They brought massive stars Jennifer Aniston, JJ Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg and yes, Oprah, on stage to talk about their new projects. The $4.99 fee to share across up to five ‘family’ members, with a free year for anyone buying a new Apple device, seemed pretty reasonable.
A false start?
Then came the launch, and the reviews. The Morning Show got very mixed reviews. For All Mankind generally got ok if not overly enthusiastic coverage. People seemed to really like Dickenson though again, not excitedly. The same with Servant. See was believed to be an absolute turkey.
This wasn’t the way you wanted to launch your multi-billion dollar ‘groundbreaking’ service.
Other content - Helpsters, Ghost Writer, Snoopy, movies The Elephant Queen and Hala - all generally got positive, though few, reviews
When you launch something like this you want a huge flagship property to reel people in, Disney+ had The Madalorian for example. TV+ seemed to be pitching The Morning Show as that property, but due to the early, mediocre reviews, it never got much traction. Did you hear many people talking about the actual plot week to week?
So the build-up to Apple TV+ - over two years - felt like a slight anti-climax. A lot of people (mainly due to the one-year free trial) were trying it out, but it seemed Apple, a company known for disrupting almost every market they went into, had come up a bit short. It was met with a bit of a shrug by the public at large.
However, as the months have gone by, and more content has come out, that picture has started to change.