When Apple TV+ launched in November 2019, it presented itself as a shiny new alternative to streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon, with a line-up of high-profile shows starring beloved A-listers. But the streaming service ended up earning little fanfare, overshadowed by the buzzy rollout of Disney+. Many wondered whether it was the middling reviews for the original titles, or more likely, the lack of a back catalogue altogether. The latter will be changing soon, as Apple has begun acquiring older movies and TV shows for Apple TV+ to build a back catalogue that could finally compete against the massive libraries of Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon, WarnerMedia’s upcoming HBO Max.
Bloomberg reports that Apple Inc. is acquiring “older movies and shows for its TV+ streaming service,” with the aim of building a back catalogue as impressive as those on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and other streaming platforms.
Apple’s video programming executives are reportedly taking pitches from Hollywood studios to license “older content” for Apple TV+, for which they have already bought some shows and movies. It’s not reported what those shows and movies are, and what defines “older” — does that mean Classic Hollywood films from the 1960s and back? Or do they refer to any title that is not an original?
It’s also not known what studios Apple will be partnering up with. Disney+ already has ownership of Disney, Pixar, 20th Century Studios, Marvel, and Lucasfilm titles, while the upcoming HBO Max draws from WarnerMedia’s extensive archives. Amazon has a deal with A24 as well, though the streaming licensing lines aren’t drawn in concrete, as a few movies from the beloved indie distributor are on Netflix. Similarly, a few Warner Bros. movies are scattered on other platforms. That leaves a lot of possibilities for Apple, though they may want to step up their game to catch up with the other services.
It seems like the acquisition of “older” titles for the Apple TV+ back catalogue is still in the early stages, but this is a big change in strategy for Apple. Until now, the company hasn’t engaged in the heated streaming battles for popular sitcoms like Friends, which went to HBO Max, or The Office, which goes to Peacock. Apple instead tried to rely on its media partners, building in subscription capabilities for services like Starz, Sowtime, and HBO on its TV app. However, Bloomberg reports that the company still plans to keep Apple TV+ focused on its original shows like The Morning Show and Defending Jacob and hasn’t yet acquired any “huge franchises or blockbusters” for its back catalogue.
Apple TV+ and Quibi are the only new streaming platforms that don’t have an extensive back catalogue, and unsurprisingly, are the services that seems to be taking the biggest hit popularity-wise. While Apple has not reported how many subscribers it earned since its launch, the lack of buzz and word-of-mouth over its new service seems to say enough. According to Bloomberg, about 10 million people had signed up for Apple TV+ by February, but only about half that number actively used the service. That’s compared to the record-setting numbers from Disney+, which has surpassed 50 million new subscribers, while Netflix added almost 16 million customers in the first quarter of 2020 alone.
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