Is Apple TV+ the Most Innovative Streamer?

Apple TV+, Editorials, Television

Apple TV+ officially launched on November 1, 2019, the same month as Disney+ and about six months before HBO Max (now Max.)

The launch of Apple’s original content efforts came when all of the major players were staking out their claims on the streaming economy following the success of Netflix.

Four and a half years into its existence, Apple has much to be proud of regarding Apple TV+

It has produced some global hits, led by Ted Lasso, and it became the first and so far only streaming service to make a movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Apple TV+ likely does not draw the eyeballs that Netflix and some of its other competitors do. But in Apple’s case, that doesn’t quite matter.

A different model

One key thing to know about Apple TV+: It doesn’t have the same business model as most of its competitors, nor does it have the same goals.

For Netflix, the streaming service is the company itself, and the service is its core business.

For Peacock, Paramount+, and the AT&T-era version of HBO Max, it was a legacy media company placing all its chips on a streaming model. Even Prime Video is intertwined with Amazon’s e-commerce business.

But Apple TV+ works differently. It is not Apple’s core business, as that company sells iPhones, computers, and other hardware products.

The company also has a broad category called “Services,” of which Apple TV+ is one part, along with Apple Music, iCloud, Apple Podcasts, and numerous other product offerings.

During the initial years of its existence, Apple gave a free year of Apple TV+ to most people who purchased any of its devices to grow subscriber numbers out of the gate.

Apple does not break out how much money it makes or loses from Apple TV+. When the service is mentioned on the company’s earnings calls, it usually touts the recent success or awards won for a particular show.

But even if Apple lost a massive amount of money running Apple TV+, it wouldn’t matter much to the bottom line of the world’s most valuable or second-most valuable company, depending on its stock price on any particular day.

What gets watched

Apple, in other words, has a lot of money. However, it also does not need to live or die with the success of its streaming service.

Both factors have allowed Apple a tremendous amount of freedom to make many shows and pursue eclectic programming across numerous genres. And this has allowed for a great deal of innovation.

As with most streaming shows, there is little clear transparency regarding how many people are watching.

Even Ben Stiller, a director and behind-the-scenes force behind the series Severance, has complained in interviews that Apple doesn’t even share viewership data with him.

However, in December, Apple shared with Deadline what some of its most popular shows have been. The story had The Family Plan, the action comedy with Mark Wahlberg, as the streamer’s most-viewed movie ever.

Following its third season, it also described The Morning Show as the “series record holder” for the service.

Apple stated that the streaming service’s viewership increased 42 percent in 2023 over the previous year, thanks also to such shows as Lessons in Chemistry, Messi Meets America, Silo, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, For All Mankind, Hijack and Bad Sisters, as well as Ted Lasso.

And that’s not including Severance, which did not air a season in 2023.

And the shows listed form just a tiny fraction of Apple TV+’s total offerings.

That is a diverse and eclectic group of shows from all different genres, types of filmmakers, and parts of the world. That’s to say nothing about Apple TV+’s sports programming in terms of live events and related documentary shows.

How many people watch?

We do not know how many subscribers Apple TV+ currently has. A Statista estimate in the spring of 2022 put the number at 22 million, but that’s far from official and was over two years ago.

However, it’s almost certain that Apple TV+ can boast far fewer subscribers than Netflix, which had 260 million globally as of the end of 2023.

Who innovates best?

Regarding which streaming services are the most innovative, it’s probably neck and neck between Apple TV+ and Netflix. Netflix, after all, invented streaming services as we know them and produced original programming for them.

Apple, at least until recently, hasn’t focused on licensing catalog content; instead, it has focused on its original programming.

However, Apple also made live sports deals before Netflix did so, with both Major League Soccer (MLS) and Major League Baseball joining the service.

Apple’s deal with MLS, in which the service essentially took over all broadcasting of the league’s matches, was the first deal of its kind anywhere in sports.

And yes, Apple’s commitment to innovation was rewarded in 2022, when CODA, a film it acquired out of that year’s Sundance Film Festival, won the Best Picture award.

It was an upset win over Power of the Dog, Netflix’s entry, which had been favored throughout the Oscar season that year.

Apple TV+’s future

Ted Lasso is most likely done after three seasons. But that doesn’t mean Apple TV+ is in any trouble.

It has plenty of shows in the pipeline and a great deal of innovative programming that continues to attract audiences.

What do you think, TV fanatics? Is Apple TV+ your favorite streamer?

Hit the comments section below to share your thoughts.

Stephen Silver is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow more of his work on his Substack The SS Ben Hecht, by Stephen Silver.You can follow him on X.

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