Apple has made a name for itself for a variety of reasons over the years. Top-tier devices and software. Burgeoning services. And also being ridiculously tough behind-the-scenes.
Apple executives have been known to be very tough in negotiations. And that’s certainly not new, as Apple’s demand for a 50-50 revenue split with its incoming subscription News service has reportedly made some (but not all) publishers balk at the new platform. Apple executives have a plan in sight, and the general rule of thumb is the company will try to achieve it no matter what. That has been seen as an issue when it comes to its own proprietary software and hardware.
So of course it’s going to be an issue when you start producing original TV and film.
A new report out this week from The NY Post aims to shed some light on Apple’s own issues when it comes to launching original content. We know that Apple sees its incoming streaming platform as a lucrative business, and it very well could be! There have been so many new projects announced for this service it can be hard to keep track. Just to name two: A TV drama about a morning show starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston. And then there’s the incoming project from Sofia Coppola, On The Rocks, starring Bill Murray.
On a purely hype scale, some of these projects sound pretty exciting. However, it sounds like Apple’s executives are more than willing to jump in and lay down the law, so to speak. Agents have described the higher-ups at Apple as being “very involved” with some of the projects. With others, the executives are aiming to guide the content itself. Apple reportedly wants to avoid “controversial” topics, including potentially negative impacts of technology. (Think Black Mirror on Netflix.)
Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has reportedly dropped by the set of an incoming sci-fi thriller entitled See to gauge what’s going on there. Cook has even dropped by the set of the aforementioned morning show drama. Apple’s interference with these projects has reportedly led to various delays. So much so that the platform may only launch with a handful of shows later this year. (Apple is rumored to unveil the service on March 25.) And the report indicates that some of the content is “not as good” as some would have liked.
Apple wants to be a production company, and that’s fine. To be honest, as someone who really loves TV and film, this is one of the more exciting elements Apple has worked on in years. Especially with the content coming down the pipe. However, if Apple wants to be a production company then it needs to get out of its own way.
Now, we’ve heard rumors dating back to 2017 that Apple wants original content it can showcase in its Apple Stores. Basically, family-friendly stuff. However, in December of last year we heard that Apple was in “advanced talks” to land a reworked version of the hyper-violent series Nevelot, which would star Richard Gere. This is a company that needs to understand that it doesn’t have to show off all of the original content in its retail stores, but of course the executives already know this.
Production companies, like A24 and others, choose the content they want to help distribute. Apple is no different here. But, to make matters a bit more difficult, this is also Apple’s own platform. In this, Apple has an absolute right to decide what’s available on the service. Just like Disney is not going to put overtly-violent/potentially sensitive material on its upcoming Disney+ service, Apple can do the same thing.
However, Disney can choose to keep that sort of content off Disney+ because it has other options. Up until recently it was using Netflix to handle the more “sensitive” material (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and the other Marvel shows). Now it will rely on Hulu to handle that content, including a brand new Howard the Duck animated series. If Disney+ didn’t have those outlets? Well, it would either skip that content entirely or make a dedicated section within Disney+ to gate-keep it.
Apple doesn’t have those other options, but it needs as much content as possible. Apple should be helping to promote original stories and smaller indie voices that might not make the big Hollywood cut. But those stories can be controversial and deal with real-world topics that actually matter. The fact that Apple Music has a variety of explicit content available on it should be why Apple’s streaming platform has the same mentality.
Apple is no stranger to parental guides and restrictions. Roll them out for original TV and film.
More than anything else, though, Apple has to let these directors and writers, and other producers for that matter, tell these stories. Apple can cull the stories themselves — that’s perfectly fine. But once you’ve green-lit a project, and you know what you’re getting? Get out of the way. Heavy-handed production notes from the companies very, very rarely ever mean positive output and results.