It's not an exaggeration to say that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) didn't have a clear strategy when it first started dipping its toes into original video content back in 2017. You might recall that the company's first foray was Planet of the Apps, a poorly reviewed ripoff of Shark Tank but for app development. In a confounding move, Apple included the series in Apple Music, its music-streaming service. Things changed in the summer of 2017, when the tech titan announced it had poached longtime Hollywood execs Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg.
Under those two executives, who are now co-chiefs of Apple TV+ and report to services chief Eddy Cue, Apple has finally found a cohesive strategy. But with Apple TV+ officially launching on Friday, the service is still in the early innings.
T-minus two days
In an interview with Variety, Erlicht and Van Amburg discussed Apple TV+'s imminent debut. "This has been more than two years in the making," Van Amburg told the outlet. "We've all been working so hard to do the best work of our lives."
Transitioning from Sony, one of the biggest studios in Hollywood, to Apple was a pretty big cultural shift for the duo. The execs were suddenly free to focus solely on the creative side of the business, and the top priority was to produce content that would fit within the Apple brand, according to the report. Erlicht said that the service needed to "feel seamless for the company."
"What I'm most excited about is that the world is going to be able to see what we've been doing," Erlicht added. "And they're going to see a user interface that will change the way the consumer watches video."
It's unclear what interface Erlicht is referring to, as the company has already been in the process of rolling out the revamped version of its Apple TV app in recent months, including expanding to an unprecedented number of third-party platforms like Roku, Amazon's Fire TV, and certain Samsung smart TVs. That has expectedly helped boost Apple's audience.
"In May, we launched our all-new Apple TV app in over 100 countries, bringing together all the ways to watch TV in a single app across iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and select smart TVs," CEO Tim Cook said in July. "Monthly viewers in the Apple TV app in the United States are up over 40% year over year."
Apple reports fiscal fourth-quarter earnings today after the market closes.
The second-year lineup will be bigger
Much has been written about how many shows Apple TV+ will feature at launch -- fewer than 10 initially. It turns out that's more than Erlicht and Van Amburg expected. "We're going to have a bigger slate in the first year than we thought we would, and we will be bigger in year two than year one," Erlicht noted.
That second year will be a pivotal test, as the majority of first-year subscribers will likely get the service for free. The tech giant is running a promotion that gives away one year of Apple TV+ with hardware purchases. Over the next year, Erlicht and Van Amburg need to build out the catalog enough to compel those users to renew.
"The natural inclination is to feel that Nov. 1 is the finish line," Van Amburg concluded. "But actually, Nov. 1 is the starting line."