When Will Apple Release Its Shows Already, and How?

Dan Clarendon
CJ Rivera/FilmMagic; Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for InStyle; Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

The list of TV shows Apple is developing is even more impressive than its programming division’s $1 billion budget. Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon are starring in a drama about morning news. Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul are leading a drama about true crime. Steven Spielberg is rebooting the ‘80s sci-fi anthology Amazing Stories. And other big names on Apple’s dotted lines include Richard Gere, Kristen Wiig, Chris Evans, and J.J. Abrams. We know so much about these shows… and so little about when or how we’ll see them.

Reports suggest Apple will release these shows starting sometime in early 2019. That’s all well and good, but Apple hasn’t even revealed how these shows will get to viewers.

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It’s possible Apple will release these shows through Apple Music, as it did for the reality shows Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps. But the former show hasn’t made much of a buzz and the latter was canceled after one season, perhaps because it seems counterintuitive to fire up the Apple Music app looking for television content.

Instead, CNBC sources say, the new content will be released through the app called “TV” that’s already on iOS and tvOS devices: the iPhone, the iPad, and the Apple TV. Right now, that app serves as a central hub for streamable and live programming from outside sources and for movies and TV episodes for rent or purchase through the iTunes Store. CNBC’s sources claim the app will soon host Apple-produced content. After all, Carpool Karaoke made the switch from Apple Music to the TV app for its second season.

But that idea also poses a bit of a branding problem, considering the company already has Apple TV, a popular digital media player. Will consumers be able to tell the difference between the Apple TV and Apple’s TV app?

Then there’s the question of price. The CNBC sources say the company will offer its programming for free to owners of its devices, much like how Amazon provides its video programming free to its Prime customers as a perk for subscribing. Meanwhile, Recode cites one TV executive in contact with Apple who said the company will offer a subscription with a fee, albeit one that’s priced below Netflix’s.

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And who knows if all this money will pay off? Apple is already turning off creators with its preference for broad appeal and PG-13 content. The Wall Street Journal reports Apple CEO Tim Cook gave the thumbs-down to Vital Signs — an already-filmed drama roughly based on Dr. Dre’s life — for being too explicit. And even the Aniston-Witherspoon drama reportedly lost a showrunner over creative issues with the type of humor on the show and with the company’s desire for the show to be “upbeat.”

Clearly, the Cupertino-based company is betting big on its television offerings, with numerous jobs and millions if not billions of dollars on the line. We’ve gotten clues of when and how we’ll see these shows, but just as with each successive iPhone model, we won’t know all the details until Apple wants us to know.