Will Apple’s risk-aversion doom its TV content effort?

“The first noteworthy Apple video was the ad it debuted at the 1984 Super Bowl, showing a female athlete hurling a mallet through a screen, announcing the arrival of the Macintosh computer,” Avi Salzman writes for Barron’s. “More than 30 years later, Apple is reportedly getting ready to spend $1 billion on new content for its own video service. But the company’s revolutionary spirit is long gone. It’s now an $800 billion behemoth whose incremental product upgrades rarely shock the world anymore.”

“CEO Tim Cook did not sound overly enthusiastic with the idea of producing TV shows on the company’s most recent conference call,” Salzman writes. “In today’s risk-taking TV culture, that could be a hindrance”

“Competitors have gotten comfortable challenging societal norms, at the risk of offending people. Netflix, for instance, has gained a reputation for pushing envelopes, broadcasting shows with frank depictions of sex and violence… Amazon has also invited controversy with shows like The Man in the High Castle, which imagines what would happen if the Nazis had won World War II,” Salzman writes. “Not all good shows, of course, have to push boundaries. But if Apple really wants to compete on original content, it will need to give significant control to creative people with new ideas. And it may not be willing to risk tarnishing its clean-cut brand to do that.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Risk aversion is certainly a valid concern and, combined with inept management, could have contributed to Apple excreting such a tepid trifle, Planet of the Apps, for their first effort.

Tim Cook has proven to be sensitive to certain concerns, from cartoon squirt gun emojis to banning some political apps. Would Cook stand for Apple-branded content that’s steeped in say, gun violence or explicit sex or certain politics with which he does not agree? If Apple plays it safe, expect more derivative pablum like Planet of the Saps.

Apple blocks Apple Pay support on sites selling white nationalist apparel – August 17, 2017
Apple rejects game featuring ‘objectionable’ Pepe The Frog cartoon – June 12, 2017
Apple App Store rejects pro-Trump ‘Build the Wall’ game over ‘Pepe The Frog’ cartoon – October 21, 2016
Apple App Store rejects satirical Hillary Clinton game, despite offering dozens of anti-Trump games – July 27, 2016
In wake of London stabbing rampage, will Apple replace their knife emoji with a plastic spork? – August 4, 2016
Open Thread: Should Apple code their OSes to block video games that glorify guns and murder? – August 3, 2016
Apple jumps the shark by removing the handgun emoji; Gun owners might want to reconsider buying Apple’s products – August 3, 2016
Apple removes handgun emoji, replaces it with a squirt gun – August 1, 2016
Apple’s politics may be hurting its brand – June 29, 2016
Apple quashes rifle Emoji – June 20, 2016


  1. Apple could still produce leftist crap like “The West Wing” that denigrates backers of lower taxes, smaller government, and the individual and trumpets big government, the nanny state, and globalism and win a decent audience and, certainly, many awards from leftist Hollywood, but overall Tim Cook, the perpetually-aggrieved SJW virtue signaler, will stifle Apple’s content creation effort if he insists of meddling and controlling the message (as we know by now that he certainly will).

    1. During its run from 1999 to 2006, The West Wing garnered immense popularity and attention, capturing three Golden Globe Awards and 26 Emmys and building a devout fanbase among Democratic partisans, Beltway acolytes, and people of the liberal-ish persuasion the world over.

      But… at the conclusion of its seven seasons it remains unclear if the Bartlet administration has succeeded at all in fundamentally altering the contours of American life. In fact, after two terms in the White House, Bartlet’s gang of hyper-educated, hyper-competent politicos do not seem to have any transformational policy achievements whatsoever. Even in their most unconstrained and idealized political fantasies, liberals manage to accomplish nothing.

      Despite its relatively thin ideological commitments, there is a general tenor to the West Wing universe that cannot be called anything other than smug.

      It’s a smugness born of the view that politics is less a terrain of clashing values and interests than a perpetual pitting of the clever against the ignorant and obtuse… The greatest political victories involve semantically dismantling an opponent’s argument or exposing its hypocrisy, usually by way of some grand rhetorical gesture. Categories like left and right become less significant, provided that the competing interlocutors are deemed respectably smart and practice the designated etiquette. The Discourse becomes a category of its own, to be protected and nourished by Serious People conversing respectfully while shutting down the stupid with heavy-handed moral sanctimony.

      In Toby Ziegler’s “smart and not,” “qualified and not” formulation, we can see a preview of the (disastrous) rhetorical strategy that Hillary Clinton would ultimately adopt against Donald Trump. Don’t make it about vision, make it about qualification. Don’t make it about your plans for how to make people’s lives better, make it about your superior moral character. Fundamentally, make it about how smart and good and serious you are, and how bad and dumb and unserious they are.

      [Democrats] smugly taxonomized as “smart” and “dumb” the very electorate they needed to win over, and retreated into an ideological fever dream in which political success doesn’t come from organizing and building power, but from having the most polished arguments and the most detailed policy statements.

      Now, facing defeat and political crisis, the overwhelming liberal instinct has not been self-reflection but a further retreat into fantasy and orthodoxy. Like viewers at the climax of The West Wing’s original run, they sit waiting for the decisive gestures and gratifying crescendos of a series finale, only to find their favorite plotlines and characters meandering without resolution. Shockingly, life is not a television program, and Aaron Sorkin doesn’t get to write the ending.

      — Luke Savage, June 7, 2017

      Full article here

      1. Well, Butthead, big government isn’t working all that well in Illinois, Venezuela, or the US in general. I know this will be hard to understand, but one particular instance of a policy or approach to government does not prove the validity or the ineffectiveness of the policy: too many variables are at play.

    2. You do have a lot of bile stored up, don’t you?
      Not everyone wants to watch 24, Walker, Texas Ranger and CSI Toledo.

      I didn’t watch the West Wing much, but when I saw it, it appeared to be pretty good TV.
      You can go watch Alex Jones and Glenn Beck now.

  2. I can’t say that I really care. Netflix, Hulu, HBO etc. aren’t particularly risk averse, and 90% of their original offerings are pretty mediocre, in my opinion. I’m not really expecting Apple to be any different, regardless of their policies. I think the ‘new golden era’ of TV has pretty much run out of steam at this point.

    1. I have worked in Television for a long time and my impression is that the ‘Golden Era” of television was always about fifteen years ago and programmes “these days” were nowhere near as good.

      People were saying in the mid 60’s that the most exciting TV was in the early 1950’s. By the time I was an experienced head of department in the 80’s, the mid 60’s were regarded as the best time ever. At the turn of the century, people were fondly talking about the amazing shows that we made in the mid 80’s and so on.

      The BBC has a longer history than most broadcasters and as one who loved working for the BBC, I collected BBC memorabilia. I discovered a BBC annual which was published in 1937 in which people complained that the BBC no longer makes shows that were as good as they used to be. Somebody else complained that the same few presenters are always fronting every show. Exactly those same complaints from 80 years ago are still made today and seem just as relevant.

  3. One of the problems with modern TV is that it is directed at the lowest common denominator of viewers.
    Hopefully they will deliver thought provoking intelligent TV that lets the viewer decide.
    For my money the best series ever in TV was the “Wire”

  4. Why is there no credit given to Philip K. Dick, who wrote the book, which was published in the early ’60’s?

    I have not seen the show. It expect it has distorted to the producer/directors whims.

  5. In the UK, the BBC offered some memorable programming in the 1960’s and 70’s. Quite a number of their most successful comedies and major drama series were spun off from just a few strands shown during non-prime slots.

    The BBC had a series called “Play for Today”, one called “The Wednesday Play” and another called ‘Comedy Playhouse”. They were used as vehicles for new writers, directors and actors to show just what they could do by making a one-off 30min comedy or 60 min drama. There was no pressure to make everything into a huge commercial success, just the expectation to come up with the best story possible and tell it brilliantly.

    Obviously an approach like that inevitably means that there were a fair number of duds too, but the productions that stood out often became the starting point for a long running and popular series and countless numbers of successful writers, actors and directors launched their careers via these strands.

    In recent times, the Great British Bake Off ( in the USA renamed the Great British Baking Show ) started off as an obscure programme, screened on a minor channel in a mediocre time slot. However the programme found an audience, grew that audience, was shifted to prime time and refined itself to become the biggest programme on British television. Ironically, the production company that came up with the idea had pitched it to every broadcaster they could think of and they all turned it down. Ten years ago, who would have thought that people would want to watch members of the public cooking cakes inside a tent? Most commissioning editors couldn’t even see it a daytime filler on a lifestyle satellite channel, yet it went on to become the biggest prime-time show in Britain with spin-off all around the world.

    Part of the creativity process is having the opportunity to make mistakes and fail. Obviously the mistakes need to be minimised, but Apple knows better than most that for every successful product, they have made any number of promising, but ultimately imperfect experimental prototypes and learned as much as possible from that experience. Those failed prototypes cost a lot of money, but Apple’s blockbuster successes overwhelmingly outweighed those development costs.

    The author argues that Apple is risk-averse, but I see Apple as being exactly the opposite. Apple has made any number of bold moves which have been roundly condemned by critics, but have gone on to be massively successful and there are multiple indications of major new projects in the future.

    Apple has a long track record for obsessive pursuit of excellence, thinking beyond the conventional boundaries and wanting to delight it’s audience. If it can apply those principles to creating new media, it could achieve something amazing.

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