Apple Beats Netflix to the Oscar
For most of the past two years, it's been hard to know what to make of Apple TV+. Arguably, it has a handful of great shows. The Morning Show, with Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carrell, got most of the early attention, but it was Ted Lasso, the refreshing hit about an American football coach hired to coach a struggling soccer club, that won over audiences.
Apple also hasn't been shy about going after big names and big projects. Still, it's not entirely clear what sets the newbie streaming service apart, especially when compared to established players like Netflix, with its extensive content library and push into original content. Now, however, Apple TV+ has one thing Netflix doesn't: an Oscar for Best Picture.
It's not that Netflix hasn't tried. It's even come close, with a handful of nominations over the past few years. It even entered this year's awards ceremony, which was broadcast last night, with 27 nominations, the most of any studio.
In the end, however, it was Apple that brought home the win for CODA, the film it acquired for $25 million about a young woman who has to decide whether to help her deaf parents in the family business, or pursue her own dreams of a career as a musician.
It might not seem like which studio or streaming service wins which Academy Award matters all that much, but if you're Tim Cook or Reed Hastings, it very much does. Netflix has been pushing hard for a win that would validate its strategy of original programming.
Of course, the fact that it has even been nominated is a major shift. It was only a few years ago that major studios and producers wanted to eliminate Netflix and other streaming services from consideration unless they gave their films a full theatrical release.
Apple, on the other hand, has bet big that it can spend its way into ramping up a streaming service to rival not only Netflix, but Disney+ (which launched the same month as Apple TV+), HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and newer entries like Peacock and Paramount+. If you measure success by awards, Apple has done a pretty good job.
I don't know if anyone signs up for a service like Apple TV+ because a film like CODA wins an Academy Award for Best Picture. For that matter, I don't know anyone who signed up for Apple TV+ because of Ted Lasso. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I know anyone who signed up for Apple TV+ for any reason other than it came for free with their iPhone or Mac.
I suppose that's another important distinction--everyone has Netflix. Just about everyone I know has Disney+, especially if they have kids. HBO Max seems to be doing fine. What all of those services have are massive libraries of familiar content that people are willing to pay for. What they don't have is a Best Picture Oscar for a film released primarily on their service.
Eventually, for Apple, there has to be a reason to keep paying for a service, which means people have to think it offers some kind of value. Winning awards helps because it gives you credibility.
Apple is trying to prove that it has something worth paying for, or, at least, something valuable enough to pay for Apple TV+ as a part of the company's services bundle, Apple One. Awards, on their own, might not matter, except when you get to say you've won something none of your competition has.
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