I will admit it—I fangirled over Oprah. Not to her face. She was some 30 feet from me, on stage in a long flowing Colonel Sanders getup that very few people could pull off (Oprah did). I fangirled over Alfre Woodard and Jason Momoa, too. I thought about how short Steve Spielberg looked on stage, and about how thick and luxurious Ewan McGregor’s hair is. The celebrities were in full attendance at Monday’s Apple event, and it was very clear, hours later, that they’d been there to distract from the fact that Apple had nothing to say.
Sure, the company announced a new credit card of questionable merit, a news curation service that’s another nail in the coffin of independent journalism, and it’s own attempt at a unified play anywhere gaming platform, but the bulk of the hour-and-a-half event was centered on Apple TV (no, not the media players you plug into your TV—the app you use on the media players you plug into your TV and, soon, some smart TVs as well) and Apple TV+, a new service from Apple that will include a lot of original content featuring the many, many celebrities in attendance.
The app version of Apple TV, besides having a deeply confusing name, is being positioned as a competitor and maybe even a replacement for major streaming services from Netflix, Amazon, and even Hulu. First, there’s Apple Channels, which, I think, is a rebranding of something Apple already allows you to do—namely, subscribe to premium channels directly via Apple. Currently, you have to open the iTunes store to do it. Maybe Channels means it will all happen through the app? It’s still unclear. When asked for clarification, Apple told me that it will also allow for offline viewing—something HBO doesn’t currently do but other channels supported by Channels, like Starz, already does.
With, as Oprah noted, over a billion devices in the wild, Apple could theoretically have a billion eyeballs on these channels and all its new TV+ content. Given that the most watched shows currently struggle to crack 20 million live views, that’s an impressive possible feat!
But the problem is, we don’t know much about the service. Price? No idea. Subscription or pay as you go? Who can say! Heck, we don’t even know how the shows that will be part of the new Apple TV+ service will present in the Apple TV app. Apple, when I asked for clarification, declined to comment.
We can, of course, assume. Immediately after the event, my coworkers complained about how little we learned and I, being the person on staff who regularly uses the Apple TV app now, simply rolled my eyes. I assumed shows would be presented in the app as they currently are. Right now, it suggests a show I might like, and when I click on the show, it offers to let me buy it through the iTunes store or watch it in a supported app. Game of Thrones in HBO Go, and Killing Eve via BBC America or my PS Vue DVR.
It seems only natural that new shows will be treated similarly, only when I click to watch a show, it will suggest I subscribe to TV+ if I want to actually watch it—much like it insisted I had to subscribe to DC Universe last week if I wanted to see Brendan Fraser’s butt in Doom Patrol.
But this is just me guessing based on the operations of the current app. This wasn’t from Apple actually outlining how things could work—they might not even work that way! The app is getting a big refresh ahead of the launch of TV+ later this year. So it could be entirely different. It could have its own tab, or TV+ could even be a new app. After all that fanfare on Monday, we still have no idea.
Will it stream or operate as movies and TV shows purchased via iTunes do, downloading the media onto your device at the highest fidelity your device will support? Will it display in 4K with DolbyVision HDR? Or will it be shot in something lower fidelity like regular 4K (probably not) or higher like 8K (also probably not)?
See, I can assume here, from previous products Apple has released, but that’s a surefire way to make an ass out of myself. As with nearly everything else in this story, Apple declined to comment when I asked for clarification.
As frustrating as the lack of details about TV+ itself is, the lack of details about the damn shows is even worse. BBC or HBO can afford to do a 2-minute supercut trailer of all their shows because those networks have a lot of big and well-established programming. Apple—which has released scant details about its forthcoming lineup, apart from some tepid plot summaries provided by the stars on stage—apparently cannot.
Jason Momoa hugging an unidentified woman in a trailer after he gave us a 3-minute acting exercise on stage is not going to get me excited for his show—I can’t even remember the name of it.
Everything about TV+ felt... unfinished. Like Apple was trying to distract from a clunker car it was trying to sell with some new paint and upholstery. Only it was Oprah and Jason Momoa (and at least two people told me Chris Evans was there too). Apple is going to have to do a lot of work between now and the launch of Apple TV+ to get me even remotely excited. Because right now, the only takeaway I have from that event is that being in the same room as Oprah was pretty neat.