Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus may have launched within weeks of each other, back in late 2019, but their trajectories couldn't have been more different – and former Netflix CEO Marc Randolph has a take on why.
Randolph spoke to Yahoo Finance, saying that Apple was "still not in it with both feet", and that it was preventing the TV streaming service from becoming as big a player as its competitors, either Netflix or Disney Plus.
The latter service is nearing towards 100 million subscribers worldwide, a staggering amount for a young service, but a testament to the draw of classic Disney films as well the Star Wars movies and spin-off TV shows such as The Mandalorian and Marvel's WandaVision. It's still under half of Netflix's subscriber base, of course, but it's very clear that Disney Plus is here to stay as a major player.
Randolph believes the same cannot be said of Apple TV Plus, though: "They have no excuse... they're still not in it with both feet. They really have to do the entrepreneurial thing and walk up to the edge of the cliff and jump," said Randolph.
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Now is the winter of our Disney content
The main issue, says Randolph, is in content production: "It's really a war of who's prepared to make the content." Netflix, of course, is notorious for spending billions to make new original TV shows and films, and Disney has been working hard to create more Disney Plus series that build on the popularity of its tentpole franchises.
The Netflix co-founder poured also scorn on the free Apple TV Plus "giveaways" given to new iPhone and Macbook customers, with annual subscriptions thrown in at no extra cost to entice viewers to the service.
While it's hard to argue with the value of free TV streaming, it does suggest limited interest from viewers in paying for that content organically – and means that current viewer numbers, which are still a closely guarded secret at Apple, aren't bringing in cash or likely to sustain in the long term. The lack of official subscriber stats also doesn't inspire a huge amount of confidence.
"If Apple spent one quarter as much time on content as they do on giveaways they really could play," said Randolph.
“We’re seeing the new rules of the game developing," Randolph added. "This is not just announcing, this is not just having a promotion – what you have to demonstrate is that you have the content, content content."
A few bad apples...
As ever, content is king. It's easy to be critical of early streaming services that are still building their libraries in this capacity, but it was clear when Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus launched that both had a lot of catching up to do. However, while Disney jumped in with both feet, Apple didn't have quite the same attitude.
Apple TV Plus does have a few shows that veer into 'must-watch' territory, like the excellent The Morning Show (its flagship series at launch) or the feel-good sports biopic Ted Lasso, both of which are set to get a second season, as well as the game developer comedy Mythic Quest.
However, there are just as many duds on the service (See among them), and when the overall library isn't that large, the visibility of these non-essential titles is very high.
Getting more content, and really investing in a wide variety of shows, to cater for the many viewers out there as well as find out what gains traction on Apple's platform, is the only way to fix this – and it looks like Apple's cautious accumulation of new titles simply can't compete with the onslaught of Disney series and Netflix Originals on offer.
- Considering Apple's service? Read our Apple TV Plus review
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Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.