Canceling Difficult Content is a Bad Omen for Apple TV+

We learned this week that Apple TV+ show Bastards has been scrapped. The show, which starred Richard Gere, is not the first piece of challenging content pulled by Apple. At Cult of Mac, Luke Dormehl made a compelling case as to why this might not be the right approach.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard murmurs about Apple’s family-friendly TV and movie ambitions. Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that Tim Cook made the call to cancel a semi-autobiographical drama about Dr. Dre… Apple TV+ should arrive this fall at roughly the same time as a bunch of other new streaming services. The biggest of the newcomers, Disney+, will presumably sate many people’s appetite for family-friendly fare. Carving out a niche for Apple TV+ in this crowded environment could mean counter-programming against Disney. Where Disney goes light, Apple could have gone dark. Cupertino’s enormous cash reserves give it the capability to take risks that few others can.


Check It Out: Canceling Difficult Content is a Bad Omen for Apple TV+

2 thoughts on “Canceling Difficult Content is a Bad Omen for Apple TV+

  • Charlotte:

    I’ll try to be brief, but this is a loaded topic about which opinions will be sharply divided; more so because of commentators’ and pundits’ tendencies to conflate any number of sociopolitical ailments with entertainment content and our tribalistic tendencies to sort these opinions into these divisive camps.

    There are two broad issues, which in my opinion, are foremost with respect to Apple’s or any company’s for that matter, choice of entertainment content or any product for that matter.

    First, Apple as a publicly traded company in the private sector is free to produce, host or sponsor whatever content they wish. If you are on that company’s advisory board, however, you are likely to advise that they not produce anything that will harm their brand or embroil it in controversy for which it will likely pay a loyalty tax. For a company that brands itself as a force for good and the unlocking of human potential to better the world, producing a show whose centre-piece is about two vets going on a mass shooting spree might qualify as brand-tarnishing. Set in our current social context, imagine if such a series or a one-off show were running on Apple TV+ during the past month in the USA during which we have had a spate of mass shootings nearly every weekend, and an ongoing and divisive sociopolitical debate on their underlying cause and remedy. Apple’s content could well have featured prominently as causally related to these shootings on the part of those who insist that the issue is not firearms access but mental and social health and our gaming and entertainment industries. Why would a company like Apple want to find itself and its products the subject of such negative and ultimately divisive controversy? The potential, but no guarantee, of taking market share from their competitors strikes as insufficient justification, and a gamble whose risks vastly outweighs its benefits.

    Second, and no less important, is the fact that there is a market for family-oriented content. The range of that market is likely vast and extends well beyond animation and child-centric themes to informational and fictional content designed to inspire and fire the imaginations of all ages. For example, one of the debates occurring at this moment in the Star Trek world is the dark-themed Star Trek: Discovery series, which is the first Star Trek series that cannot be watched by all ages, at least not universally. This has split the Star Trek community, specifically about whether or not to gain market share amongst those seeking adult-themed content an opportunity to inspire a new generation is being squandered (and indeed whether or not this series will inspire anyone to do anything). This kind of division has come with a brand loyalty tax; there is no free lunch, and controversy has a price. The reasoning is simple; a show that either informs and/or inspires, that the entire family can consume, even if individually and not communally, provides an opportunity for discussion and bonding, as well as opportunities for growth and and the guidance of young minds to worthy careers (many a scientist and champions of humanitarian causes attribute their career choice to Star Trek: TOS and Next Gen, for example). The only question is how competitive will be Apple’s offerings in this genre, which should and will be decided by a free and competitive market, as it should be, driving these competitors to extend themselves to make the most compelling offerings for that market. Offerings that attempt to appeal to every market will likely appeal to none, and will fail relative to those that know their market and accordingly hone their content to compete in that space.

    As for Dormehl’s valid case about taking risks, I concur that Apple can and likely will do so, as they have in the tech space. However, stealing a march on a market with a new product is about first impressions. Apple need to first stick a solid landing (to use a gymnastics metaphor) before venturing into more challenging moves, ever mindful of the space in which they are trying to compete. And, as with their tech products, that is not likely to be in every market, and certainly not in a deliberate race to the bottom.

  • This isn’t a bad omen – there is enough garbage on Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and cable channels to provide ample filth and “dark content.”

    I am sick of the negative/dark/cynical/sinister/edgy material that is currently acceptable.

    If you want to understand why there are so many mental health issues, violent incidents, division among people, and general unhappiness in the world today – take a good look at the steady diet of crap we are feeding our brains. We are products of our diets. Based on what is being consumed on a regular basis, we are trending towards becoming a terribly vile species.

    I applaud Apple if they indeed want to produce motivational and uplifting content. We cannock up all the guns and pointy objects, but until we change our diet we won’t change the direction society is stumbling.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.