A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Apple TV+ - Everything you need to know about the new streaming service
Always Be Watching is written daily by Dan Barrett
Apple today came out swinging with its new TV service Apple TV+ with some hard details. Here’s what you need to know:
It will cost US $4.99 per month. Australian pricing: $7.99. £4.99 per month in the UK.
The service will launch on day one in over 100 countries and regions.
Subscribers will receive a free 7-day trial.
Any Apple customer who buys a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, or Mac will get a free 1-year subscription.
A subscription can be shared across 6 family members through Family Sharing.
At launch, most Apple TV+ series will premiere with three episodes, with one new episode to roll out each week, while full seasons of some series will be available all at once.
Apple TV+ originals will be subtitled and/or dubbed in nearly 40 languages, including Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (SDH) or closed captions. Apple TV+ series and movies will also be available with audio descriptions in eight languages.
Viewers will be able to watch Apple TV+ shows via Apple’s TV app. The TV app is available on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, online at tv.apple.com, and through a broad number of third-party Smart TV’s and other devices.
The launch shows for day one:
In the far future, a virus has decimated humankind. Those who survived emerged blind. Jason Momoa stars as Baba Voss, the father of twins born centuries later with the mythic ability to see—who must protect his tribe against a powerful yet desperate queen who believes it’s witchcraft and wants them destroyed. Alfre Woodard also stars as Paris, Baba Voss’ spiritual leader.
The Morning Show
A cutthroat drama starring and executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, and starring Steve Carell, explores the world of morning news and the ego, ambition and the misguided search for power behind the people who help America wake up in the morning.
Want to note something really curious about this one? The Apple Australia YouTube account has the show named Morning Wars - has Apple re-named the series in countries that already have a TV show called The Morning Show, as is the case in Australia? I suspect so.
For All Mankind
A new series from Ronald D. Moore, imagines what would have happened if the global space race never ended and the space program remained the cultural centerpiece of America’s hopes and dreams.
A darkly comedic coming-of-age story, explores the constraints of society, gender and family through the lens of rebellious young poet, Emily Dickinson.
Also on day one:
“Helpsters,” a new children’s series from the makers of “Sesame Street,” stars Cody and a team of vibrant monsters who love to help solve problems. It all starts with a plan.
“Snoopy in Space,” a new original from Peanuts Worldwide and DHX Media, takes viewers on a journey with Snoopy as he follows his dreams to become an astronaut. Together, Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts crew take command of the International Space Station and explore the moon and beyond.
“Ghostwriter,” a reinvention of the beloved original series, follows four kids who are brought together by a mysterious ghost in a neighborhood bookstore, and must team up to release fictional characters from works of literature.
“The Elephant Queen,” an acclaimed documentary film and cinematic love letter to a species on the verge of extinction, follows a majestic matriarch elephant and her herd on an epic journey of life, loss and homecoming.
Oprah Winfrey joins the world’s most compelling authors in conversation as she builds a vibrant, global book club community and other projects to connect with people around the world and share meaningful ways to create positive change.
The price was what was always going to make or break Apple TV+. For a show launching with just a handful of shows, it was a bit much to ask subscribers to pay up when competing services would have such bigger libraries on offer. But $4.99 per month is just low enough to make the subscription fee not that big a deal. Price-wise, it positions it alongside other smaller, more niche services like Shudder. And that makes sense - Apple have created a small library with BIG titles to lure users onto their platform where it wants to upsell you to buy movies/TV shows and/or to subscribe to other TV services through it (eg you will be able to subscribe to services like HBO through Apple in the US).
These are really good launch titles. Launching on Nov 1 with three episodes each is just enough time to capture attention for shows ahead of the launch later that month of big gun Disney+.
A year-free subscription for people who buy new hardware is going to make the decision to upgrade devices that little bit more appealing. These are classy-looking shows that will look fantastic when trailers are playing on devices in stores.
Apple have had a bumpy launch strategy so far with Apple TV+ - its initial launch event was so lacking in detail that it neutered the whole thing, while the initial trailer for The Morning Show was a misfire. BUT… today’s announcement was completely on the money. It was confident and bold. And, I’ll be honest, actually has me pretty excited about the service moving forward.
In other news today…
Australian pay TV company Foxtel have done a refresh on its channel line-up. From 7 November, Foxtel will launch 4 new channels:
FOX ONE will be a new flagship channel along-side FOX SHOWCASE and FOX8 and home to the latest premium US network and cable series and contemporary hits including Ballers, Chicago Fire and Mayans M.C. and new season premieres including Prodigal Son, legal drama All Rise and the explosive War of the Worlds.
FOX FUNNY will showcase the latest contemporary comedy including The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, The Office, 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother.
FOX HITS is a new comedy channel that will deliver classic comedy favourites from the 80s and 90s such as Friends, Will and Grace, Frasier and Malcolm in the Middle.
FOX CRIME is a new channel featuring the best crime series on television including NCIS, Criminal Minds, CSI and Bones.
Gone from Foxtel will be: TVH!TS, 111Funny, and the Binge channel. The loss of the Binge channel was inevitable with Foxtel pushing for online streaming of its shows on demand. The days of the all-day TV show marathon should be long behind Foxtel.
Mostly, this has just been a reminder to me that the new War of The Worlds mini-series is coming soon…
In the US you won’t see any advertising on TV for Fanta this year. The reason is the obvious one: it’s not where the younger eyeballs are. In an effort to reach Gen Z teens, The Coca Cola Company will place all Fanta ads on social channels, digital video placements and OTT platforms.
In 2018, Fanta spent $5.4 million on media, down slightly from the $5.8 million it spent on media in 2017, according to Kantar.
The realist in me suspects that a push to embrace digital and Out of Home for the Fanta brand may be part of an effort to also reduce the annual ad-spend for what is a declining product category (with younger people moving away from traditional fizzy soda).
There’s a good read on why buying snack foods at cinemas is so expensive. The TL;DR version is that it is expensive to run a cinema, most of the profits form every ticket sold goes back to the movie distributors/studios, and that cinemas need to make money somehow.
Profits from popcorn are used to pay off the high overhead costs of running a theater: staff, rent, AC, utilities, and the constant upgrades (Surround Sound, IMAX, 3D) that consumers demand.
Popcorn also can’t salvage the bones of a declining industry.
Less than 10% of the US population goes to the movies, compared to 65% in 1930. And those who do go are attending less: In 2018, the average moviegoer paid for only 3.5 tickets, down from 4.9 tickets in 2002.
The question I have: If cinemas make so much of its profit from snack foods, why is the industry so focused on driving ticket sales to Friday/Saturday nights and not drive more frequent attendance on weekend daytimes? I go to the cinema almost weekly early on a Saturday morning and am quite often the only person there. Just me. In a giant VMAX cinema. That makes no sense to me.
Why not use these dead time periods to run special event programming, encourage movie club sessions, live podcast recordings, etc? Get people through the doors and sell them a big tub of popcorn.
Did you know that the origins of Mr Spock’s Live Long and Prosper hand salute has its origins in Jewish tradition?
“When the Kohanim do the priestly blessing, they take their two hands and bring the thumbs together and it’s like the ‘Live Long and Prosper’ sign.” But, the version in the blessing differs slightly. “[Spock] only does it on the show with the one hand, but the Kohanim, when they do the blessing, take the two hands, connect the thumbs to make the Hebrew letter Shin.”