Before digging into the actual products, or product news themselves, I think it is important to take a step back and look at the forest within the trees from Apple’s Showtime Event yesterday. I think a theme was clear, and how that theme ties into Apple’s broader media services.
Golden Age of Stories
In a theme report released by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), the opening letter from their CEO contained this interesting first paragraph.
We live in a golden age of stories. In communities of all sizes, in all sports of the world, stories bring us together, challenge our assumptions, and inspire us in so many ways. — MPAA CEO and Chairman, Charles H. Rivken.
This is the thing that drives a service like HBO, Showtime, and even Netflix. This is the idea behind motion pictures, good journalism, much literature, and even video games. Those who tell the best stories tend to have the most successful hits in media. This is why I personally think Netflix is extremely interesting and why I have positioned them as a company creating stories as a service. Out of all the content destinations I watch, which is most of them, I feel Netflix consistently puts out the best stories. It is part of their content strategy which focuses on a narrative with a whole season or show having to be followed from the start. Most cable TV network shows have a little narrative but are largely produced so you can miss an episode or several and not miss much. Nearly every series on Netflix, and Amazon to a degree are more like a 10 episode movie.
This is why I think Charles H. Rivken is correct when he says we are in the golden age of storytelling. The Internet and the billions of screens in people’s pockets make it possible for great stories to see the light of day. So how does Apple fit into this?
The Story Telling Platform
While Apple is embarking on its own journey of proprietary storytelling with AppleTV+, the broader perhaps more interesting theme is Apple trying to create a platform for storytelling. If you look at the focus of the games, they are bringing to Apple Arcade, and they are mostly indie game developers who create immersive and cinematic gameplay that also tell a story. Perhaps not all the games included in Apple Arcade will be this way, but Apple went out to their way to showcase developers who do and highlight the storytelling potential of many iOS games.
Second, we have magazines. While I’m not a huge magazine fan, I do recognize they often tell stories in a much different way than news publications for example. Magazines often have more depth in their articles, more production, and a more narrative style of writing. Perhaps that is because their articles can be longer than most news articles, but overall, it is a different type of storytelling but storytelling none-the-less.
Lastly, we have AppleTV+. This was perhaps the most obvious push toward stories of all the announcements. Mostly because many writers, producers, and actors/actresses, were there to promote the stories they wanted to tell. Apple happens to be the platform they choose, mostly because Apple gave them the most money, but I think part of Apple’s pitch was the overall engagement and type of customer that Apple acquires. While Apple can and will keep paying for this content, I do think part of them hopes that the impact or the results of these stories being told on Apple’s platform has great impact and perhaps brings more storytellers to their doorstep.
If we look at all of this news in context, I think the why now to announce this becomes a bit more clear. Many were disappointed the details of availability and pricing were not immediately made clear and question why to have this event now. The reason is more platform-centric in my opinion and not that different than what gets announced at WWDC from a strategic viewpoint. Apple wants storytellers to know what they are doing and to hopefully buy into their vision and sign on to have content ready by launch. Apple wants to go out with a bang, and they have to really, and in order to do that they need to start seeding their vision sooner than later.
That’s essentially what yesterday was about. Seeding the vision to content producers about the storytelling platform and storytelling services they want to emphasize. With the added benefit of Oprah’s highlight quote as to why she has committed “because they are in a billion pockets y’all.”
Apple customer base is unique, and its platform is unique. This uniqueness has worked for third-party developers, and Apple wants it to work for third party storytellers in gaming, journalism, and movies/tv.
There are still a lot of questions, and details yet to emerge. We can and will form an opinion on the services themselves as they come out, but I think it’s important to understand the platform play Apple is pushing because in the end that is more in their wheelhouse.