The launch of Apple's upcoming streaming service, Apple TV Plus, is now only a few months away, but reports suggest that the tech giant is still struggling to piece together a coherent content strategy for its roster of TV shows, documentaries and films – whatever they end up being.
According to the New York Post, Apple is looking to bankroll a number of small-budget feature films with Oscar potential, with a mind to matching the recent success of Netflix Original Roma – which scooped three Academy Awards this year, including Best Director for Alfonso Cuarón.
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Sources told the Post that Apple was in talks with "elevated" directors who could help it fulfil its Oscar ambitions, with a planned budget of $5-$30 million (up to £25 / AU$45 million) for each title.
For comparison, Roma cost $15 million (around £12 million / AU$22 million) to produce, with an additional $60m spent on Netflix's publicity campaign for the movie.
While there's still a lot we don't know about Apple TV Plus – such as the pricing and how broad the content library will actually be at launch – we do know that Apple is gunning straight for prestige.
Attached names include Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, and La La Land director Damien Chazelle – all adding up to a star-studded list of creatives and content-makers for the upcoming service.
While a certain level of quality seems assured, something that Apple still lacks is quantity.
Is that it?
Apple has not been in the TV and film business very long – at least, not from the production side. Apple's set-top boxes, the Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K, are premium media players for streaming content in your home, but knowing how to distribute and package content is a far cry from making it, and Apple has yet to confirm how it plans on fleshing out its content library.
While Netflix has had impressive success with awards in recent times, it's also been producing billions worth of content each year, and been willing to make as many duds as it has high-class titles.
Apple doesn't seem willing to take the same risks. Aiming straight for prestige is understandable, but without the same number of titles being produced – or willingness to cater to niche interests – it's a lot more likely that Apple will end up with a tentative library of middle-of-the-road content.
Disney Plus is able to side-step this entirely, given the immense back catalogue of Disney titles, as well as its owning the rights to Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and now even 21st Century Fox. Even with all those production studios under its belt, Disney CEO Bob Iger has admitted the platform will launch with "substantially less volume" than Netflix, and will be priced accordingly (via Engadget).
We reported back in April that Disney Plus would likely come to the Apple TV streaming box, and Apple may well be headed for a future where its own content provision pales in comparison to the other big players – even on its own hardware.
One source, speaking to the Post, said Apple's team was "anxious and clueless about what they really want to do [...] Half the culture hates them making content, and the other half wants to meet stars.”
Ultimately Apple has the cash reserves to purchase a content library, in the way it has for iTunes Movies, but even an Oscar won't save Apple TV Plus if there isn't anything else to watch.
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