“We don’t make purely financial decisions about the content [on Apple TV Plus]. We try to find great content that has a reason for being,” he said on Apple’s quarterly earnings call Thursday. Cook was responding to an analyst’s question about whether the service’s “socially responsible” programming lens might be causing Apple to be hesitant about acquiring a studio.
The CEO called out the Emmy-winning “Ted Lasso,” starring Jason Sudekis as the fish-out-of-water American football coach leading an English soccer club.
“We love shows like ‘Ted Lasso’ and several of the other shows… that have a reason for existing and may have a good message, and may make people feel better at the end of it,” Cook said. He added, “But I don’t feel that we’ve narrowed our universe of things we’re selecting from. There’s plenty to pick from out there, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job of it as we speak.”
In his prepared remarks on the call, Cook boasted about the number of awards and nominations that Apple TV Plus’ programming slate has nabbed, rather than viewership or subscribers. In its first two years, Apple TV Plus shows and movies have earned 200 award wins and more than 890 nominations, he said. He named feature films “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, “CODA,” and “Swan Song,” starring Mahershala Ali, along with upcoming new series “Severance” and “The Afterparty.”
“Each one is a tremendous credit to all the storytellers in front of the cameras and behind them who touched audiences all over the world,” Cook said.
Cook’s comments suggest that Apple still sees the streaming service strategically as mainly a loss-leader for sales of iPhones, Apple TV 4K set-tops and other hardware products.
Apple does not break out subscriber numbers for Apple TV Plus. As part of discussing its blowout year-end 2021 quarter results — with the highest revenue and income in its history — the company said it had 785 million paying subscribers globally across all services, up 27% year-over-year. That includes both Apple-branded and third-party services, such as subscriptions sold through the Apple App Store.
Apple’s Services segment, which includes the App Store, iCloud, and Apple TV Plus as well as music, news, games, fitness, payment and other services, generated a record $19.5 billion in the year-end quarter, up 24% from the year-earlier period.
In July 2021, Apple ended previous promotional offers for customers who were getting Apple TV Plus — regularly priced at $4.99 per month — at no charge, some dating back to the streamer’s November 2019 debut. The company had extended a one-year-free offer several times for those who bought news iPhones or other products. It currently offers Apple TV Plus free for three months with the purchase of a new device.
This week, Apple began running an ad campaign featuring Jon Hamm, best known for his starring role on “Mad Men,” as he peruses the lineup of TV shows and films on Apple TV Plus. Those include “Ted Lasso,” “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” “Swan Song,” “The Morning Show” with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, “The Shrink Next Door” with Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd, and the films “Finch” and “Greyhound” starring Tom Hanks, and even Snoopy.
The joke: Jon Hamm is not in any of the originals. “Hey, Apple, did I do something to offend you?” the actor laments at the outset of the ad.