Lacey Rose at The Hollywood Reporter details a new deal struck between Apple and Jon Stewart:
As part of an expansive, multi-year deal with Apple, the Emmy-drenched former writer, producer and host of The Daily Show is set to front an all new current affairs series for the streaming service. The show, which will run for multiple seasons, puts Stewart back in the anchor’s chair as he explores a host of topics at the center of both the national conversation and his own advocacy work.
Stewart has stayed largely out of the limelight since ending his long and successful run with The Daily Show in 2015, so this is a big get for Apple TV+, and potentially other projects Apple has in the works. For example, the report mentions that a podcast is expected to result from the deal. Most important though is the TV+ series mentioned above, with hourlong episodes each covering a single topic.
Apple’s plans for TV+ in 2020 have been heavily impacted by the current pandemic, resulting in a content slate that’s had more gaps than expected. It looks like the service could be poised for a big 2021.
9to5Mac reports that Apple is automatically extending the free trial for TV+ for existing customers. The free trial available to customers who purchased certain Apple products after September 2019 will be extended until February 2021, adding up to three months more for free. People who are paying monthly or annually for the video streaming service will be given an equivalent amount of store credit that can be used to purchase any content on the iTunes Store.
According to Benjamin Mayo of 9to5Mac:
These refunds and extensions will be automatically applied to user’s accounts, so customers won’t have to do anything at all to take advantage of Apple’s generosity. Email notifications will be sent out in the coming days.
Separately, Apple announced today that season two of Dickinson will begin on January 8, 2021, which anyone with the extended TV+ free trial will now be able to begin watching before signing up for a paid plan.
I’m not surprised that Apple is extending the TV+ free trial. TV shows from TV+ and other services have been interrupted worldwide due to the pandemic. By extending the free trial, Apple has a chance of hooking viewers on the second season of some of their favorite shows, making it more likely that they will stick around as paying customers after the trial expires.
Today during an event in which Apple revealed new Apple Watch and iPad models, the company also had some big services news to share: to increase adoption of the company’s growing slate of services, a new Apple One bundle will be launching soon to bring together multiple paid services at a discounted price.
Although Apple One doesn’t carry an official release date yet besides simply ‘fall,’ Apple did detail the breakdown of pricing and included services across three different Apple One tiers:
- Individual: Includes Apple Music, TV+, Arcade, and 50 GB of iCloud storage for an individual at $14.95/month, a savings of $6/month.
- Family: Also includes Apple Music, TV+, and Arcade, but with 200 GB of iCloud storage and Family Sharing for all services, at $19.95/month for savings of $8/month.
- Premier: This is the big bundle, including Apple Music, TV+, Arcade, News+, the newly announced Fitness+, as well as 2 TB of iCloud storage for $29.95/month, a savings of $25/month.
The Individual and Family tiers of Apple One will be launching in over 100 countries to reach the widest number of users possible. Premier, however, since it includes services like News+ which are only available in limited territories, will only be available in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia at launch.
When Apple One launches, users will be able to try any of the three tiers with a 30-day free trial for services that they aren’t already paying for. It’s also worth noting that according to Apple’s website, Fitness+ likely won’t be available until after Apple One debuts, since it carries a launch window of ‘Late 2020’ while Apple One is ‘Coming this fall.’
Apple One’s tiered structure makes a lot of sense, and the savings seem pretty enticing, especially for the Premier plan. As someone who already subscribes to every Apple service, Premier will be a no-brainer to me as I’ll gain Fitness+ and a higher iCloud storage plan for less than the $38/month I’m paying right now.
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Apple today announced the first bundle offer that’s ever been available for channels in the company’s TV app. It comes with a unique twist in that the offer is only available for customers who already subscribe to Apple TV+, whether through a paid subscription or as part of their free year of service for purchasing a new Apple product. Apple TV+ subscribers can now subscribe to a bundle of CBS All Access and SHOWTIME for just $9.99 per month following a 7-day free trial. When subscribed to separately, these two channels together would cost $20.98 per month, making this a substantial offer.
Apple’s press release highlights some of the features that make channel subscriptions appealing:
By subscribing through Apple TV channels, customers can watch content from all three services online and offline, ad-free and on demand, only on the Apple TV app. Through Family Sharing, up to six family members can share the subscriptions to Apple TV+, CBS All Access, and SHOWTIME using just their personal Apple ID and password.
As someone who has used Apple’s TV app heavily for years, I’ve written before about how much value I find in the channels experience, and how disappointed I am that Apple hasn’t been able to strike more deals for additional channels partners. When Apple TV channels first launched in early 2019, HBO was the most prestigious channel available, but when that service transitioned to become HBO Max, there was no longer a channel option available for Apple users. New streaming services like Disney+ and Peacock haven’t been made available as channels either. So Apple has built a solid TV experience for the streaming age, but it’s not available for the services people care about most. I’m not particularly hopeful that today’s bundle news will change that at all, but it’s good to at least see a little life from the company’s channels initiative.
Apple’s TV strategy has produced a mix of both winning and losing. While I think the company is largely on the right track with its efforts to produce original TV+ content, and it’s also poised to take a cut of many popular streaming services’ revenue via In-App Purchases, I nonetheless think it’s clear that the company’s attempts to offer a great TV experience are failing.
Last Friday Apple debuted a special new episode of its TV+ series Mythic Quest that was produced entirely during this season of quarantine. Lacey Rose at The Hollywood Reporter interviewed the co-creators of the show, Rob McElhenney and Megan Ganz, about the origins and challenges of the episode:
McElhenney pitched the idea to his bosses at Apple, who were immediately on board. To pull it off, he told a team in Cupertino, California, that the production would need 40 new iPhones and 20 sets of earbuds later that week. “This was a Monday, and I said, ‘If we have them by Friday, I think we could pull this off. Is that possible?’” he recounts by phone. “There was a rep on the call who didn’t skip a beat. She said, ‘I already have them tracked down. They’re in L.A. and I can have them to you by this afternoon.’”
Three weeks later, Mythic Quest: Quarantine was shot, edited and ready to air. McElhenney and the programmers at Apple feel so strongly about the finished product, which will drop on Friday, that they’re submitting it for Emmy consideration. “In the beginning, I think there was a real possibility that it would be a nightmare,” says Nicdao, “but by the end, I was ready to do three more.”
I watched the episode over the weekend, and it really is something special. It beautifully captures the human experience of this pandemic, confronting the dark moments while also providing a lot of joy. I won’t be at all surprised if it wins an Emmy.
If you’re interested in TV production at all, the full interview goes into lots of nitty gritty details that are fascinating and well checking out.
Initially slated for release by Sony next month, Apple has picked up a WWII navy drama starring Tom Hanks called Greyhound that will stream on the company’s TV+ service. The movie that Hanks wrote was originally scheduled for theatrical release next month by Sony Pictures on Father’s Day weekend in the US. Instead, the film will debut on TV+. There’s no word from Apple yet about when Greyhound will become available to its subscribers.
According to Deadline, which broke the story:
For Apple, this is further indication the company is becoming a major player in features, as this marks its biggest picture commitment. The Apple TV+ slate includes Beastie Boys Story, the docus Dads from director Bryce Dallas Howard and the Sundance acquisition Boys State as well as On the Rocks starring Bill Murray, Rashida Jones and directed by Sofia Coppola. Streaming now is 2019 Sundance Film Festival selections Hala and The Elephant Queen. The service also premiered the George Nolfi-directed The Banker, which stars Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson and Nia Long.
With the COVID-19 pandemic closing movie theaters worldwide, movie studios have released many smaller-budget films straight to video streaming services. However, those movies have primarily appeared on multiple streaming services simultaneously. Greyhound is unique because it’s a big-budget film featuring a big-name actor, which will be available to TV+ subscribers only.
With the economic pressures facing the movie studios, video streaming is poised to play an even larger role in the industry. By picking up Greyhound, Apple has made it clear that it intends to play a leading role in the film industry’s evolving future.
Simon Thompson has an excellent, wide-ranging interview at Forbes with the production team behind Little America, the acclaimed Apple TV+ series that debuted recently.
Early on the interview covers why the team chose Apple for this show. Executive Producer Lee Eisenberg explains that unlike many other companies, who were “a little scared” by the pitch, Apple “almost immediately started selling themselves to us and trying to convince us why they should have it.” He attributes this to the series’ tone and spirit being a perfect fit for Apple’s brand. Eisenberg also explains how the company’s platform was a big draw:
“Apple is such a worldwide and multi-faceted brand. We’re doing a podcast to delve more into the stories and the music on the show. There’ll also be a playlist for every episode. We’re putting out a book too. Apple has an infrastructure that just felt like it would be able to touch all of the different pieces that we wanted.”
Word of a Little America podcast seemingly confirms reports of Apple developing original podcast content for its TV+ catalog. The whole paragraph, however, highlights the unique place Apple is in as a media hub. As I’ve written several times now, there’s tremendous potential for the company to utilize its various services in concert to provide experiences not possible anywhere else.
Another fascinating portion of the interview involved production challenges the team faced. Executive Producers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani share the story of a time the show, which centers around U.S. immigrant narratives, had to move production out of the country and into Canada due to an actor being unable to get a visa to enter the country.
“There was a Libyan actor who we were flying in to be in the show, but because of the new immigration laws, we couldn’t film that episode in America. We had to move production to Canada for an episode,” Gordon explained.
Nanjiani added: “For an episode about someone coming to America, who came here with refugee status, we could not shoot it in the US, which was crazy. We couldn’t get a visa for him. We really liked him and really wanted him for the part, so, luckily, Apple was kind enough to allow us, at great expense, to move production to Canada for one episode.”
What an incredible and fitting behind-the-scenes story for a series like this.
Over the weekend, Apple debuted its TV+ content lineup for the first half of 2020 at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour. This Press Tour is a tradition of the TV industry, where traditional networks and streaming services alike share about the new content they’ll be releasing soon. Apple got to join the festivities this year for the first time, detailing its TV+ lineup through early summer, including release dates for highly anticipated series we already knew about, plus the debuts of new shows that hadn’t been previously announced.