As a tech product launch, Apple’s introduction of Apple TV+ was solid — sleek and beautiful, with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from the world’s largest corporation.
As the launch for a TV streaming service, though, it was a glossy, live-action press release that added Apple to the long list of content providers that would rather not compete with the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” at the 2019 Emmys.
Toward the close of their presentation, Apple TV leaders Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht promised shows will become available in “Fall 2019,” missing the May 31 eligibility date for the Emmys by a country mile. However, that doesn’t erase all hope for accolades. The Golden Globes eligibility window, for instance, runs concurrent with the calendar year, as do many of the specific guild awards.
That said, it’s impossible to say which shows will premiere when. Fall is a nebulous period suggesting anything from September to November. Nevertheless, Apple has an inherent advantage when it comes to its Golden Globes prospects; historically, the Hollywood Foreign Press loves television that features marquee names.
Additionally, given the repeated success of Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” at the Globes, even a late November release would theoretically be enough time to make a mark with voters.
For now, however, Apple wanted to make a mark on the Hollywood press with an invitation to one of its fabled product presentations. Apple announcements are like few corporate confabs: Legendary for their impact, they can create market demand and can move stock prices. (Apple’s stock price fell to a daily low of $186.60 shortly after the event, and closed the day at $188.74.)
However, when it came to serving as the debut for its plans to move into television, it was starved for creative details beyond the official name of the Reese Witherspoon-Jennifer Aniston morning show project. (It’s “The Morning Show.”) The shows could be great — but after a two-hour presentation, journalists knew as much (or as little) about the programming as they did going into the Steve Jobs Theater.
Apple CEO Tim Cook touted the tech giant’s prowess at pulling Hollywood’s most sought-after talent before featuring a soaring black-and-white video with tight close-ups of the likes of Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, and J.J. Abrams talking about the delicious torture of storytelling.
There was talk of the smell of sawdust and plaster, rain effects, and a gathered orchestra. It was a tribute to the way stories connect us and a testament to Apple’s ability to make commercials.
And then the parade of talent began. Time and again, the stage went dark before revealing new members of the entertainment elite, including Spielberg, Witherspoon, Aniston, Steve Carell, and Jason Momoa. Even Big Bird appeared to promote Sesame Street’s new collaboration with Apple, “Helpsters,” a show aimed at teaching children to code.
Oprah Winfrey also announced that she’ll bring two documentaries to the service, one on mental health and the other on workplace sexual assault. Any or all of these new shows could be exciting, even groundbreaking — but Apple chose not to show clips that might whet the audience’s appetite for more.
The auditorium was packed with excited employees who applauded every celebrity reveal, but it didn’t have the same impact on people who spend four weeks each year sitting in a ballroom questioning Hollywood talent at TCA presentations, a week at upfronts listening to networks pitch their wares, and more weekends than you can count at junkets and set visits.
All hullabaloo aside, Apple was at a disadvantage. It faced an unfamiliar audience, one that was more familiar with the boundaries of the presentation than the company itself. TV journalists are not its typical audience of tech gurus, but they are very knowledgeable when it comes to content creators presenting new programs seeking approval.