Will Apple’s Risk-Aversion Doom Its TV Efforts?

The first noteworthy Apple video was the ad it debuted at the 1984 Super Bowl, showing a female athlete hurling a mallet through a screen, announcing the arrival of the Macintosh computer.


More than 30 years later, Apple is reportedly getting ready to spend $1 billion on new content for its own video service. But the company’s revolutionary spirit is long gone. It’s now an $800 billion behemoth whose incremental product upgrades rarely shock the world anymore. CEO Tim Cook did not sound overly enthusiastic with the idea of producing TV shows on the company’s most recent conference call. He seems mostly interested in using TV as a vehicle to add Apple Music subscribers.

In today’s risk-taking TV culture, that could be a hindrance.

Competitors have gotten comfortable challenging societal norms, at the risk of offending people. Netflix, for instance, has gained a reputation for pushing envelopes, broadcasting shows with frank depictions of sex and violence including Orange is the New Black. Some countries have restricted when young people can watch or discuss its teen drama 13 Reasons Why because of concerns that it encourages suicide. And that’s not likely to change. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently told executives that “we have to take more risk; you have to try more crazy things.”

Amazon has also invited controversy with shows like The Man in the High Castle, which imagines what would happen if the Nazis had won World War II.

Apple’s first two forays into original video — Carpool Karaoke and a Planet of the Apps tech contest show — were bland and promotional.

Not all good shows, of course, have to push boundaries. But if Apple really wants to compete on original content, it will need to give significant control to creative people with new ideas. And it may not be willing to risk tarnishing its clean-cut brand to do that.

Big Picture: Apple plans to expand its original video content, but it’s not clear whether…

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