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Apple's First Foray Into Original Content Looks Like a Flop

By Evan Niu, CFA – Updated Jun 14, 2017 at 2:56PM

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The company's original content strategy is unlikely to achieve either its financial or strategic goals.

Apple's (AAPL -2.32%) original content aspirations have always been misplaced and noncommittal, and we're starting to see more evidence that Apple's efforts to differentiate Apple Music could be misguided. Wading into an area that's notoriously fickle while consumer preferences range dramatically has never seemed like a good use of Apple's time, money, or attention. That's especially true since when shopping around for a music streaming service, the average consumer probably cares primarily about music streaming.

Carpool Karaoke, which was intended to be Apple's first TV show, got delayed until August, making the premiere of Planet of the Apps last week at WWDC Apple's first official foray into exclusive TV content.

Logo for "Planet of the Apps"

Image source: Apple.

How do you really feel?

The initial reception has not been kind. The show, which resembles Shark Tank for app development, is stumbling out of the gate with poor critical reviews.

For example, Variety rips into the premiere: "For now, however, Apple's foray into reality TV does not appear to present serious competition. 'Planet of the Apps' is a bit too hollow and mechanical to pose much of a threat, or to hold the attention of anyone but the most tech-obsessed business majors." Macworld's Oscar Raymundo calls it "a missed opportunity for Apple to create truly original content that could standout in the crowded streaming space." Business Insider points out that none of the celebrity judges have any experience in app development, and concludes that Planet of the Apps "simply isn't a good show -- and the real shame here is that Apple has produced nine more episodes."

Ouch.

What's the point?

Apple has said that it hopes to use original content as a differentiating factor for Apple Music, but even if Planet of the Apps was getting more love from critics, it seems like a real stretch to think that consumers would sign up for Apple Music just to gain access. If a consumer doesn't already own Apple products, it's an even further stretch to imagine one buying an Apple product and then signing up for Apple Music for that same reason.

While Apple has other content in the works, Planet of the Apps specifically also seems intended to inspire prospective new app developers into joining Apple's ranks, presumably after seeing some success stories in a reality TV format ("You could be next!"). However, it's not as if Apple is suffering from a shortage of app developers; the company now has 16 million registered developers, adding 3 million over the past year. The potential to strike it big in the iOS App Store is also common knowledge, albeit unlikely given the sheer amount of competition spawned by relatively low barriers to entry.

Simply put, Apple's original content strategy is unlikely to achieve either its financial or strategic goals. So what's the point?

Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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