Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Apple’s latest unnecessary update: its own original TV shows

Photo Illustration: Nick Wanserski

Peak TV. It’s a phrase that has been much in vogue in recent years, thanks to FX CEO John Landgraf’s assertion that we’ve got more original content than we can possibly handle. Of course, Landgraf also thought the amount of original programming (currently lingering in the neighborhood of 454 scripted series, according to FX) on TV and streaming services would begin to decline in 2017, proving that even a sage TV prognosticator can be hilariously optimistic. Instead, the number seems to be on the rise, leading to an overabundance of options and numerous nights in which A.V. Club TV editor Erik Adams finds himself staring into the bottom of a bottle, wondering where it will all end. But lo, the unceasing march continues, and today comes word that the outlets offering original programming to the masses have a 900-lb. piece of fruit scudding into their midst like a late-to-the-party Edible Arrangements that’s already overripe and molding.

The Wall Street Journal reports Apple is planning to enter the business of creating new TV series and films, thereby following one of the last pearls of wisdom Steve Jobs offered on his deathbed: “Find a market that’s already absolutely oversaturated with options,” he doubtless whispered to several Apple execs who had pushed his family members out of the way to scribble down the man’s last oracular nuggets. “Find it, and then sink millions into telling people we’ll give them a few more offerings to join the others they don’t have time for.” The execs must have taken such advice as law, because the company is hoping to begin offering original programming on its $10-a-month Apple Music service by the end of 2017.

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Apple has been talking to “veteran producers” in recent months about acquiring the rights to scripted television programs, as well as discussing original films, though the latter option is still in the early stages, almost as though a company that has no experience in a new field isn’t going to just launch everything at once and hope for the best, a General Sherman throwing troops at the battle for streaming content and heedless to the losses. Still, it wants to get going on this plan—the Journal says it plans to create shows that would “likely be comparable to critically acclaimed programs like Westworld on Time Warner Inc.’s HBO or Stranger Things on Netflix. Which, of course Apple would like to compare its still-nonexistent series to things that are very popular, much the same way Hulu probably said Chance would be comparable to House.

Apple enters the original programming battle. (Photo illustration: Nick Wanserski)

The company’s new foray into offering you more of what you already have too much of (sadly, we’re not talking about alcohol) isn’t really a challenge to Netflix or Amazon—not yet, anyway. (Cut to: Netflix, strapping on brass knuckles and a submachine gun, muttering, “You come at the king, you best not miss.”) Apple’s real target here is Spotify, Apple Music’s prime competitor, which is a polite way of saying “streaming service that’s kicking the shit out of Apple Music with more than double its customer base.” By offering original programming, Apple Music hopes to entice new subscribers by setting itself apart from the music-based service. It’s already bought the rights to a half-hour version of James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segments it plans to stream as a 16-episode series, and the company is similarly developing a loosely biographical series about Dr. Dre, rapper and entrepreneur, a show that will undoubtedly climax with a moving scene in which Dre signs the paperwork making him an Apple Music executive.

One of the ways Apple hopes to entice talented producers into the fold is by promising to share audience data. Netflix has famously refused to release information about how many people are watching its shows or any demographic info about those audiences, which is both a great way to build mystique and also hide the fact that the only person in America currently watching Marco Polo is a stoned Dartmouth sophomore who mistook it for The Crown. By delivering demographic data, Apple could provide the traditional media relationship many in Hollywood are looking for from streaming partners, and maybe help smooth over the hurt feelings from those who just hated Songs Of Innocence so, so much.

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And with that, the already tsunami-like onslaught of original programming builds to a world-destroying pitch, a wave of scripted series that will surely drown unwitting viewers caught in its inescapable path. “But surely, this is more like an abundance of riches, no?” says the naive young TV fan. “Go fuck yourself,” replies Amazon, Hulu, Starz, HBO Now, Showtime, Crackle, Seeso, Acorn TV, Shudder, Playstation Vue, YouTube, and the poor, maligned CW Seed.

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