Last 1st November saw the debut of AppleTV+, the streaming platform launched by the celebrated Cupertino-based company
It was the culmination of the plans they announced in spring, in a move that was met with certain skepticism by the specialized media. With a $6 billion investment in content for the first year and a host of star signings, Apple has joined an increasingly saturated market, with a firm commitment to quality content and, apparently, in no hurry to reap profits. Unlike its competitors, AppleTV + does not host third-party content, only original productions. It started with a selection of genres (eight, the day of its launch) at a rate of $ 4.99 per month (with a free year’s subscription for anyone buying an Apple device) and the promise to continue introducing new releases on a regular basis.
But there’s more. AppleTV + was the first of the services associated with the streaming wars phenomenon that decided to respect the age-old TV formula of the weekly premiere. We’ve probably reached a point of maturity in streaming culture that, as users, we’ve a hard time remembering, but once upon a time, you’d have to wait seven days to find out how your favorite program continued, after an ending that used to leave us hanging on such tender hooks concerning the fate of our protagonist. You were a series follower by force of patience, with an interest that was built up over time, making the plots your own and taking advantage of the wait to imagine what would happen next.
The weekly premiere of AppleTV +, however, does have one element that makes it somewhat more similar to the most popular forms of consumption currently (the famous binge watching). In most cases, they premiere series by uploading the first three episodes, designed narratively to be watched in one sitting and then to leave the viewer wanting more. From there, the new episode is uploaded to the platform seven days later. Some series broke with this rule as is the case with “The Oprah Reading Club”, for example, with a new episode planned every two months; And “Dickinson”, a gothic biopic about Emily’s famous poet intended for a teenage audience (not big on waiting), was released all at once.
Actually, this peculiar distribution strategy aims to reconcile the best of both systems: the block premiere (Netflix and Amazon) and the weekly premiere (HBO and Disney +). Launching an entire season in one go has its advantages as when we watch several episodes back-to-back of a series enhances our engagement with the service (by increasing the hours spent watching), our reactions are much more visceral and, by extension, we tend to generate very intense and focused conversations about what we are watching. This explosion of interest is, in itself, one of the best marketing campaigns for platforms when it comes to capturing the interest of new audiences in a particular content.
The problem is that the programming schedule burns out fast and, Apple don’t (yet) have enough offer to ‘condemn’ the series to such a fleeting life. Weekly delivery compensates for this inconvenience. It’s handy when building an audience over time and allows you to extend the life cycle of the content. So, what’s the bad news? Each episode has to make the wait worthwhile in order to refresh and renew viewer confidence week after week.
For a service with as little initial content as AppleTV + has, this premiere format seeks certain balance
For a service with as little initial content as AppleTV + has, this premiere format seeks certain balance. It offers a little more than a single episode to draw the audience into the story, get them hooked and create expectation, hoping they will be able to watch more the following week. In addition, by regulating consumption week by week, the user is prevented from having the impression that they’ve nothing left to see and that, therefore, it makes no sense to pay a monthly subscription. It also allows you to build a base of followers little by little. Catching up doesn’t take effort and offers room to allow the series to rest and generate more sustained conversations over time. For now, the strategy seems to have worked for them. Their four star series (“The Morning Show”, “See”, “For All Mankind” and “Dickinson”) have already been renewed. Despite what many might think, it seems that customers feel the waiting is worthwhile, as do AppleTV +, for now.