Can Apple’s product expertise make Apple TV+ a success?

I’ve seen numerous celebrities in the audience at Apple events over the years, but Monday’s event at the Steve Jobs Theater was different. Captain America himself, Chris Evans, was in the audience. (I just missed him, but I think I spotted Tim Robbins talking to Apple’s Eddy Cue.) On stage were plenty of famous entertainment-industry faces, from directors like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams to actors like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. Even Oprah was there.

This was an Apple event unlike any other, and for many different reasons. There wasn’t any new hardware or software to speak of, for one, and such a concept would’ve seemed impossible for Apple even a couple of years ago. Stranger still, the event was aimed as much at the entertainment industry as at the people who buy Apple’s products—but then, Apple waded into some pretty strange waters when it became a full-fledged movie and TV producer.

Ready or not, the secret sauce

For years Apple has rightly sold itself as a company that can provide unique value by combining hardware and software in a single package, but on Monday Apple CEO Tim Cook rolled services into that equation as well. We’re in an era where iPhone growth has flattened, and Apple has been talking for a few years now about moving its growth into services, an area it’s had limited experience with.

We’re already seeing good examples of how Apple can meld hardware, software, and services together in order to create something unique. Apple’s new credit card, for example, is a clever package deal that unites the Apple Pay hardware on iPhone and Apple Watch with banking services with some special iOS features.

But where does this expertise cross over into making TV shows? That’s a tougher question. Apple can’t really use its expertise in hardware and software to make a better TV show, so it needs to rely on its production execs, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, to work with TV writers and producers to make those programs. And in that way it’s really no different than any other company that’s in the business of making filmed entertainment today.

apple tv plus event stars Apple

If you don’t have the expertise yourself, hire the people that do.

Some of the largest and most dynamic companies have deep technological roots these days, and the entertainment industry is in a massive transition forced upon it by products sold by some of those very same tech giants. Put these two factors together and is it any wonder that Amazon and Apple are now TV producers with buys in the billions? Netflix, a company that started as a fusion of a web app and a DVD delivery infrastructure, has ridden its technological prowess to a point where it’s as much an entertainment giant as a tech company.

It’s enough to make you wonder whether there’s any point in distinguishing between the two these days. Tech companies are entertainment giants and, in turn, some entertainment giants are becoming tech companies. (Disney spent several billion on BAMTech a few years back, and it’s busy rolling out its own multi-tiered streaming video strategy.)

But while tech skills can theoretically help you design TV apps and streaming back-ends, the skills required to make great TV are different. Van Amburg and Erlicht may succeed or fail with Apple TV+, but that result will have less to do with Apple’s ability to sell iPhones than with Van Amburg and Erlicht’s skill as development executives.