I Would not Think Less of Apple for Producing the Next Game of Thrones
Apple has hbeen demonstrating over the years that it has its customers’ best interest at heart when it comes to privacy and security. Apple’s business model, which directly monetizes from hardware and services, makes such a prioritization much easier. Customers’ trust in the brand is inherited.
This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple’s desire to keep its content family friendly had caused delays in the production of a show on Dr. Dre as well as of a drama based on a morning news show starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
The idea that Apple wants to stay true to its squeaky-clean image has been circulating as long as rumors of the TV service have been around. Many point to Apple’s history of care for privacy and security to explain why this would be the stand Apple will take.
Despite Apple’s investment in content production, we have yet to get any confirmation of the video service itself, let alone whether Apple will say no to any adult content.
The Content Offered Today
If we look at the content offered today across Apple services, adult content is easily found. Apple Music has songs that contain swear words and sexually suggestive lyrics. Books offers stories of romance, horror, violence. The App Store includes violent games while staying clear of pornography. Of course one could argue that the App Store does allow apps like Tumbler where pornographic material can easily be found.
Consumers navigate what is available across Apple’s services in the same way they would do on Spotify, in a book or video game store. Regulating content, while important, cannot be equated to assuring privacy and security. What Apple has in place for all the current content are ways to clearly label the content that is only intended for a mature audience. From apps to books and explicit music you can easily find settings that help you navigate content and avoid what you feel is not appropriate for you or your children. Music, for instance, has a simple setting that when turned on can exclude all music with explicit language and offers alternative versions when available.
Apple Does not Need to Be Disney
When one starts thinking of content that limits violence, nudity, and bad language, one tends to think of Disney. While you could be tempted to look at Disney and believe that they have been successful, the numbers show that over the past two years the Mouse House has been under quite a bit of pressure. A pressure that eventually had them look at acquiring Fox Entertainment only to lose the bid to Comcast.
While part of the pressure was coming by its parks finances rather than content, it is also true that Disney was starting to fight for its audience. Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, all offered strong competition with their productions. Apple will face that same competition once it launches its video service which would indicate that not only Apple will have to spend big money but also that it will have to make its service as broadly appealing as possible.
More, importantly, however, I would argue that Apple does not need to be Disney when it comes to content as its audience does not expect them to be. Looking at Apple’s base, there is no doubt families are a big part of it. Users have grown older since their first iPhone, and we know how big iPads are with kids, so Apple offering family friendly content will serve them very well. That said, Apple is also appealing to millennials and the older segment of Gen Z whose interests, according to a bunch of “most viewed shows lists” range from “Everything Sucks” to “Modern Family” to “The Big Bang Theory” and “The End of the F*** World.” So, for a service to appeal to the vast majority of the base, Apple really has to address themes that matter to that audience as well as speak a language they understand.
Brand and Content
There is a difference, in my mind, between airing content and producing the content you are distributing. While both demand some accountability, the latter will be held to a higher standard.
I also believe the audience is quite able to decouple the brand from the show. In other words, I might object to some of the themes in Game of Thrones and decide not to watch it but that does not have me stop watching all shows on HBO.
Interestingly, I feel that while content I might not like will not impact how I think about a brand content I love will undoubtedly grow my affinity with the brand. This is particularly true for stories that cover topics dear to my heart or productions that support women or diversity or other “causes” that might be important to me.
Of course, Apple has yet to outline their vision for content, but I would expect them to focus more on the key value propositions associated with their brand.
Focus on Quality and Management
When I think of Apple, I think of quality and a consumer first approach. I would expect the same from their video service as well. Quality that will avoid cheap use of nudity, violence, and language. This does not mean that I expect Apple to focus on family friendly content only.
Once the quality of content is taken care of, I expect Apple to go beyond the standard classification of content by making it easy for users to assess whether the content is right for them or their family members and manage access of such content accordingly.
If you think about it, this approach would be no different from what Apple is doing with “the big bad internet” where Apple is not censoring behavior, but they are helping me monitor and manage when websites are trying to track me or my information. The approach would also align quite nicely with Apple News where Apple is focusing on delivering quality content and helping users avoid “fake news.”
Time will tell if my hunch of the type of service Apple wants to deliver is correct but I am quite confident that Apple is aware that to win in this game reaching a large audience is key. To quote The Greatest Showman: “ Nobody draws a crowd quite like a crowd.”