Apple TV+ is an ad-free subscription video on demand web television service of Apple Inc. that debuted on November 1, 2019. It was announced during their March 25 Apple Special Event held at Steve Jobs Theater, where celebrities involved with Apple TV+ projects appeared on-stage for the announcement, including Jennifer Aniston, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Jason Momoa.
Apple TV+ content is viewable through Apple's website and through Apple's TV app, which in 2019 expanded its availability to numerous consumer electronics devices, including those of Apple's competitors, with further plans to expand availability to more devices over time. However, Apple has created no native app for the Windows and Android platforms, or an official method to stream the content on television-connected Android TV and Chromecast devices, leaving users of those devices to workarounds for viewing Apple TV+.
At debut, Apple TV+ was accessible in about 100 countries, fewer than the early reported target of a global launch in 150 countries, and not including a number of the highest population countries in the world, within some of which Apple sells other content generally. However, commentators note that the fairly wide initial reach of the service will offer it an advantage over other streaming services debuting at approximately the same time in a more limited number of countries, such as Disney+, and that because Apple distributes its own content through the service instead of the third-party licensed content used by more established streaming services like Hulu, it will not be hamstrung by international content licensing issues during global expansion.
By early 2020, Apple TV+ showed poor growth and subscriber numbers relative to competing services, and in mid-2020 Apple began efforts to license older television and movie content from other content holders for the service, attempting to stay competitive with other streaming services, keep a viewership base for its original content in production for the future, and convert trial users into paid users.
Apple TV+, along with the simultaneously announced Apple TV Channels a la carte premium video subscription aggregation service, is part of the company's concerted effort to expand its service revenues by making recurring monthly charge distributed video content available widely to the public.
OriginsApple had long been rumored to have an interest in beginning a streaming television service, and in 2015 entered into negotiations with various television studios and programmers to aggregate their content for a live-television streaming bundle. Negotiations fell apart over differing views on how to value the content and lack of transparency on detail.
In October 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook was reported as saying that television is "of intense interest to me and other people here." He added that Apple has "started focusing on some original content" which he called "a great opportunity for us both from a creation point of view and an ownership point of view. So it's an area we're focused on."
StaffingIn June 2017, Apple began to take the first major steps in forming its new television unit by poaching the co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television, Jamie Elricht and Zack van Amburg, to oversee all aspects of worldwide video programming. Staff acquisition and financial investments rapidly followed as many additional people were brought onboard.
Celebrity content partnerships and programming decisionsIn October 2017, following reports of sexual abuse allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein, Apple announced that they were severing ties with The Weinstein Company and cancelling a planned biopic series about Elvis Presley.
In April 2018, Apple signed Kerry Ehrin to a multi-year deal to produce original content. Ehrin and Apple renewed the multi-year deal in May 2020.
In June 2018, Apple signed the Writer's Guild of America's minimum basic agreement and Oprah Winfrey to a multi-year content partnership. That same month, Apple announced that they given a multi-series order to Sesame Workshop to produce various Live action and animated series as well as a single puppet-based series.
In September 2018, it was reported that Apple had decided to shelve Vital Signs, a six-episode biopic television series centering on the life of hip-hop producer and performer Dr. Dre and starring Ian McShane, Sam Rockwell, and Michael K. Williams, due to concerns about the show's content being too graphic with moments cited including characters using cocaine, instances of gun violence, and an explicit orgy scene. Reports further indicated that Apple CEO Tim Cook was taking a hands-on approach in regards to the company's Worldwide Video Unit with programming decisions reportedly being aligned to Cook's personal tastes, with a preference for family-friendly shows. Various programs in different stages of production have apparently had their content altered including the toning down of the Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston morning show drama series and the removal of crucifixes from a scene in the M. Night Shyamalan drama series. Additionally, Apple reportedly passed on a television series from comedian Whitney Cummings about the #MeToo movement because it was "too sensitive a topic." The Cummings series was ultimately put into development by Amazon Video in October 2018.
In November 2018, Apple entered into a multi-year agreement with entertainment company A24 to produce a slate of original films in partnership with their Worldwide Video Unit.
That same month, Apple signed a deal with DHX Media, and its subsidiary Peanuts Worldwide, to develop and produce original programs, including new series, specials and shorts based on the Peanuts characters created by Charles M. Schulz. One of the first productions created through the deal was an original short-form, STEM-related series featuring astronaut Snoopy. Also that month, Apple signed Justin Lin, and his production company Perfect Storm Entertainment, to a multi-year overall deal to produce original television content.
In January 2019, Apple signed Jason Katims, and his production company True Jack Productions, to a multi-year overall production and development deal to produce original television content. That same month, Apple signed a first look deal with Imagine Documentaries to develop non-fiction features and series. In February 2019, Harpo Productions hired Terry Wood as executive Vice President in which Wood will oversee Harpo's production of original programming for Apple as part of the multi-year agreement between Oprah Winfrey and Apple. In March 2019, it was reported that five television series commissioned by Apple had finished filming and six series would finish filming in the next few months.
On April 10, 2019, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, announced on Instagram that he was working alongside Winfrey on the mental health documentary series as a co-creator and executive producer.
In October 2019, Apple signed Monica Beletsky to multi-year deal.
In January 2020, Apple signed a five-year production deal with Richard Plepler, the former CEO and chairman of HBO. Under the production deal, Plepler's production company Eden Productions will create television series, documentaries and feature films exclusively for Apple TV+. Also in January 2020, Apple signed a multi-year deal with Lee Eisenberg, ahead of the premiere of his series Little America, as well as another multi-year deal with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Louis-Dreyfus is set to develop new projects as both executive producer and star.
In May 2020, Apple signed a two-year production deal with Annie Weisman, the creator of Almost Family. As part of her deal with Apple, Weisman will create television projects exclusively for Apple TV+.
In July 2020, Apple signed a multi-year deal with The Maurice Sendak Foundation, to produce new children's television series and specials based on the books and illustrations of Maurice Sendak.
Acquisition of old movie and TV contentIn mid-2020, Apple began discussions with movie and television studios to license older content as part of an effort to build a back catalog of non-original movies and television shows for the streaming service. The shift was designed to help the service better compete against the large content libraries offered by competitors like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. This represented a pivot for Apple, which had initially attempted to build the service entirely on original content, avoiding licensing fees to help keep monthly subscription fees low, and relying on its Apple TV Channels content partners to supply other content users wanted.
Analysts believed that the addition of older, highly re-watchable content like popular sitcoms and well liked movies would help to retain the slowly growing subscriber base, while Apple continues to develop original content. The shift was also an acknowledgement of poor growth, especially relative to competing services.
The back catalog development was also seen as a move by Apple to attempt to persuade free trial users to transition into paid users as the first wave of one-year trials expired in November 2020.
On May 26, 2020 Apple announced their first acquisition of catalogue content would be the Fraggle Rock series. In addition to being the exclusive home of the 1983-1987 Jim Henson Company series, Apple will develop a new full length, rebooted Fraggle Rock series after the success of the Fraggle Rock: Rock On short form series on Apple TV+.
Technical details reportingIn May 2018, it was reported that Apple was expected to start a sister project to its original content service, and begin selling subscriptions to certain video services directly via its TV application on iOS and tvOS, rather than asking Apple device owners to subscribe to those services through applications individually downloaded from Apple's application store.
In October 2018, it was reported that Apple would be distributing their future original content through a still-in-development digital video service to be located within their TV application that is pre-installed in all iOS and tvOS devices. The service was expected to feature both original content, free to owners of Apple devices, as well as subscription "channels" from legacy media companies such as HBO and Starz, which would allow customers to sign up for online-only services. Later that month, it was further reported that Apple intended to roll out the service in the United States during the first half of 2019 and that it would expand its availability to around 100 countries in the months following its initial launch.
Announcement detailsOn March 25, 2019, Apple held a press event to announce Apple TV+. At the event, Apple showed a teaser of its upcoming original content and formally announced some of its content with actors and producers attached to the content attending the event. Furthermore, Helpsters, the first series from Sesame Workshop, was announced, and Oprah Winfrey announced her first projects for Apple TV+ including a documentary—under the working title Toxic Labor—about workplace sexual harassment, a documentary series about mental health as well as a revival of Oprah's Book Club as a standalone television series.
On September 10, 2019, Apple announced at their yearly keynote that Apple TV+ would launch on November 1, 2019, at $4.99 per month for an account that can be shared with up to six family members. Apple also announced that they would be giving away a year of Apple TV+ for free to anyone who bought a new Apple TV, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch beginning that same day. Student subscribers to the monthly Apple Music service at a discounted rate also have Apple TV+ bundled in at no additional cost for the time being.
Growth and impactOn October 17, 2019, Irish telecommunications company eir confirmed it would be the first non-Apple related company to use the Apple TV 4K set-top boxes as its main source of supplying digital television content along with Apple content.
By February 2020, about 10 million people had signed up for Apple TV+. This included users who received a free one year trial with the purchase of an Apple device, although it was estimated that less than 10% of Apple device owners eligible for the trial had activated it, perhaps out of Apple's failure to promote the service, Apple's desire to slow the uptake rate due to accounting concerns, or because of users' lack of interest in the service's perceived poor content options. About half of those 10 million users actively used the service.
ProgrammingDuring the announcement of Apple TV+, Apple announced a number of prominent names of writers, directors, and stars that will be featured in the service., five of the upcoming series had already completed production, with six more already well into filming.
On September 10, 2019, Apple announced that Apple TV+ would have eight original series and one original documentary available at launch, with plans to launch new original content every month thereafter. Most series are expected to launch with three episodes, with a new episode being released weekly thereafter, although Apple has stated that not all series will follow this model and that some series might instead launch all at once.
Early critical reaction to the bulk of the service's programming was mixed to poor, but with commentators predicting that Apple would have time to grow into its new role as a content provider and to produce well-regarded content, especially as the free year of the service provided with many Apple product purchases would entice users to continue watching, and for some to eventually pay for a subscription, as new series are released.
On March 13, 2020, Apple suspended all active filming on Apple TV+ shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all production on series have been postponed indefinitely.
Apple's decision in mid-2020 to license large swaths of existing older content for the Apple TV+ service was viewed as part of an effort to buy time for its original content production, by keeping users engaged and in a habit of visiting the service regularly, so that a viewer base would be in place by the time new sets of Apple original content are released. In addition, the service endeavored to gain high profile content, taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting theatrical film distribution. Among such acquisitions include the 2020 feature film, Greyhound starring Tom Hanks, which they purchased from Sony for $70 million. In July 2020, the service won a heated bidding war for Emancipation, a slavery-based action-thriller starring Will Smith and directed by Antoine Fuqua. Apple paid a record $105 million for the rights, which will possibly exceed $120 million after all backend deals are completed.