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Is Apple TV+ About to Crash the Netflix and Disney Party?

By Rick Munarriz – Oct 21, 2020 at 10:58AM

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Charlie Brown and "Ted Lasso" will breathe new life into the fledgling streaming service.

They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression in the world of streaming services. Disney (DIS 1.60%) hit it out of the park with a strong back catalog of iconic content, and The Mandalorian turning heads, with the launch of Disney+ late last year. The premium platform has gone on to top 60 million subscribers worldwide. In the other corner, we have Quibi, a flop after shelling out big bucks for Super Bowl ads and celebrity-backed content. 

It's widely assumed that Netflix (NFLX 0.41%) is going to stay on top for at least a few more years (if not longer), but Disney is closing the gap despite being around for all of 11 months. This will probably be an unpopular opinion, but what if Apple (AAPL 1.92%) is the next big thing? Yes, Apple TV+ launched a few days before Disney+, and like anything that isn't Disney+, it failed to hit the ground running. But it's the home of a new cult hit series in Ted Lasso, and is now taking over the next three months of your family traditions as the exclusive home of the iconic Charlie Brown holiday specials, so you're probably going to give Apple a second chance. 

A young couple cuddling on a couch as they watch a mounted TV.

Image source: Getty Images.

Good grief

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is now streaming exclusively on Apple TV+. This is the first time in more than five decades that the Peanuts-fueled Halloween classic won't air on network TV. It was most recently on Disney's ABC. Apple will also be the exclusive home of the popular Thanksgiving and Christmas Peanuts specials in the coming weeks.

There was some initial outrage on social media with this shift. Some are calling Apple greedy, but the real culprit here is that network TV is too cheap to enter a bidding war for proven content. If you don't realize that classic sitcoms including Friends, Seinfeld, and The Office are also being bid on as exclusive-content chess pieces, you just aren't paying attention.

This is a great score for Apple TV+, and the world's most valuable company by market cap is doing something brilliant here. The three seasonal specials will always be available for on-demand streaming on the platform, but for a few days around each holiday, it will make the content available to nonsubscribers at no cost. 

How is Apple greedy in that scenario? You're no longer limited to having to watch it on a single evening in prime time. You don't have to put up with several annoying TV commercial breaks. Apple TV+ is outdoing what the traditional media networks were doing with this content before.

And let's be honest here: Snoopy is a Trojan horse. Folks are going to download the Apple TV+ app on their streaming hubs for this holiday freebie, and they'll stay close every single month until the end of this year. They may decide to stick around as paying subscribers, just as the first wave of Apple TV+ users who got free 12-month trials for buying iOS gadgetry potentially walk away. 

A knock I had on the Apple TV+ debut is that it launched as a name-dropper without soul. It had just a pair of celebrity-fueled serialized dramas among the top 20 trending shows based on traffic at the review site Rotten Tomatoes shortly after its rollout. Making matters worse, those two shows -- The Morning Show and See -- had the lowest reviewer rating among the top 20 trending shows. 

Apple may finally have its first universally appreciated show in Ted Lasso. The 10-episode sitcom about a good-natured college football coach from Kansas brought in to lead a British soccer team is everything that the country seems to need right now. It's a warm, funny, and feel-good fish-out-of-water story. It's the new The Office. It's the even newer Schitt's Creek. Audiences tend to agree, as 86% of the pro critics polled by Rotten Tomatoes and a whopping 98% of viewers recommend the show. 

Right now, Apple isn't garnering any respect for its streaming service. Netflix reported fresh financials on Tuesday afternoon. Its letter to shareholders spells out Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock as new rivals. It singles out YouTube and TikTok as screen-time magnets. Apple TV+ is left out of the competition discussion, as if it's a fish-out-of-water among media stocks. It's just as well. Like Ted Lasso or Charlie Brown, you're going to want to root for Apple  TV+ at this point. It overplayed its hand a year ago, but now it's sneaking its way back into the game.    

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Apple, Netflix, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple, Netflix, and Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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