The tech giant, which recently gained exclusive rights to the widely beloved “Peanuts” specials, said they would air on public airwaves again this year.
“On the Rocks,” a new film on Apple TV+, focuses on a troubled marriage between Laura (a writer played by Rashida Jones) and Dean (a startup executive played by Marlon Wayans). When Laura begins to suspect Dean of cheating on her, she turns to her father Felix (Bill Murray) for help.
The film reunites Murray with his “Lost in Translation” director Sofia Coppola. It can feel feather-light at times, thanks to his seemingly effortless charm — it’s hard to resist Felix when he’s singing to a bar full of strangers or devouring caviar during an impromptu stakeout. But the script and performances also make it painfully clear that he’s let Laura down as a father, and that her disappointment hasn’t gone away.
As we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we loved watching beautifully shot footage of Murray and Jones in classic New York City bars and restaurants. We were, however, a bit less satisfied with the ending, which doesn’t really do justice to all the thorny emotional issues that the film raises.
In addition to reviewing “On the Rocks,” we also discuss Netflix’s imminent U.S. price increase and the new trailer for the pandemic thriller “Songbird”.
You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)
And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:35 “Emily in Paris” listener response
4:50 “Songbird” trailer discussion
9:14 Netflix price discussion
15:50 “On the Rocks” review
33:00 “On the Rocks” spoiler discussion
Apple’s all-in-one subscription services bundle, Apple One, launches today, according to a confirmation given to Bloomberg by Apple CFO Luca Maestri.
CEO Tim Cook also confirmed the bundle’s imminent launch on the company’s quarterly investor call yesterday.
Apple One offers three plans: individual, family, and premier. Each offers some subset or combination of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, iCloud, Apple News+, and soon, Apple Fitness+.
Apple announced its fourth-quarter earnings today after the bell, and it was something of a strange quarter because, unlike some previous years (including last year), this quarter’s numbers did not include an iPhone launch. The iPhone 12’s various models ship in October and November instead of September this year.
CEO Tim Cook proudly announced double-digit YOY growth in all product categories besides iPhone on the call, but the iPhone is important: Apple’s total revenue was up only 1 percent year-over-year, with iPhone revenue down almost 21 percent.
While the iPhone didn’t help push up the bottom line, Apple did launch other products during the period, including the redesigned iPad Air and two Apple Watches: the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE. iPad revenue was up a substantial 46 percent YOY (it totaled $6.8 billion), and Mac revenue was also strong at $9 billion, or 28 percent more than the same quarter last year.
Apple is launching its Apple One services bundle tomorrow, though the company’s workout service Fitness+ isn’t quite ready yet.
On an earnings call today, CEO Tim Cook revealed tomorrow’s rollout and called the service the “easiest way for users to enjoy Apple services.” In a conversation with Bloomberg, Apple CFO Luca Maestri revealed the launch timing for Fitness+ as well. The company also detailed that it has 585 million total paid services subscriptions and expects to reach 600 million before the end of the 2020 calendar year.
The subscription bundle is designed around bringing more users into more Apple Services. It’s a big play to get subscribers to switch from Spotify to Apple Music as that is likely the crown jewel of the offering.
The company’s $14.99 per month individual plan includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and 50GB of iCloud storage. Apple also sells $19.99 family plans that bump up the storage to 200GB and is planning to debut a “premiere” plan for $29.99 that includes Fitness+ and Apple News+.
Apple’s Services division is growing in importance to the company’s bottom line, with the group reaching an all-time-high in revenue and reaching past half of the quarter’s iPhone revenues. You can read more on their earnings release below.
Former The Daily Show host Jon Stewart has signed a multiyear deal with Apple TV+ to write, star in, and produce a current affairs show that Apple and Stewart expect to run for multiple seasons, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter.
Since then, he has occasionally appeared to do small and infrequent segments on his former colleague Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show on CBS, he’s appeared in some media interviews, he directed one film, and he did a comedy tour with fellow topical comedian Dave Chapelle. Mostly, though, he has lived the family life at his farm in New Jersey.
On first screening, the network assumed it had a disaster on its hands. It was a quiet cartoon — more of a meditation on seasonal depression than a proper holiday film. The pacing was slow, it was voiced by a cast of amateur children and the soundtrack amounted to little more than the jazz piano stylings of a mustachioed North Beach hipster nicknamed “Dr. Funk.”
Worst of all, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” actively railed against the commercialization of the season, primarily in the form of an extended monologue from the blanket-wielding Linus set in the context of Jesus’s nativity.
“[The executives said], ‘We’ll play it once and that will be all. Good try,’ ” producer Lee Mendelson told me in an interview back in 2006. “[Director Bill Melendez] and I thought we had ruined Charlie Brown forever when it was done. We kind of agreed with the network. One of the animators stood up in the back of the room — he had had a couple of drinks — and he said, ‘It’s going to run for a hundred years,’ and then fell down. We all thought he was crazy, but he was more right than we were.”
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” has, of course, endured. The 25-minute animated special has aired on network television every year since its 1965 debut. It ran on CBS until 2000 and then on ABC each year subsequently, including special broadcasts on its 40th and 50th anniversaries on 2005 and 2015, respectively. For its 55th anniversary, it won’t appear on network TV at all.
In October, Apple acquired the exclusive rights to the special, as part of its ongoing, billion-dollar Apple TV+ push. The deal with Wildbrain, Peanuts Worldwide and the now-late Mendelson’s production company makes Apple’s streaming platform the exclusive rights holder for Peanuts content. That means that subsequent specials “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” will see a similar fate.
It’s become a familiar story in the era of streaming. Last year HBO Max locked down exclusive access to new episodes of “Sesame Street,” though that specific deal allowed for episodes to air on PBS at a later date. There’s a bit of a loophole here, too. The Peanuts deal requires Apple to offer the specials for free for a limited window. The “Great Pumpkin” will be free through the service from October 30 until November 1, “Thanksgiving” will be made available from November 25 to the 27 and “Christmas” will come decidedly earlier this year, from December 11 to the 13.
“[Peanuts creator Charles Schulz] would say things like, ‘I never thought it would be around 25 years later,’ ” his widow Jean Schulz told me in an interview for that same piece. “One of the reasons that Christmas is so great is that back in 1965 there were no VCRs or DVDs, so you saw that show once, and you had to wait a whole year to see it again. And when it came on, it still held up. It was still charming.”
More than a half of a century later, the special still qualifies as both. It’s a perfect artifact of American popular culture that is very much both a product of its own era and a gentle protest against it. Of course, all of the things that Linus warned us about back in 1965 have only compounded in the intervening decades. The media landscape, too, has transformed several times since then.
In a world in which change is the only constant, watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on TV has been something to rely on. This year, the short becomes the latest bit of content to get shoveled up in the great streaming wars of 2020, as media companies fight tooth and nail for back catalogues.
Cast as the perennial cynic and antagonist football mover, Lucy Van Pelt tells the titular character, “Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket.” That, at least, hasn’t changed.
Right now the channel is just an uninterrupted stream of music videos, with the name and artist of each song appearing at the beginning and end. [credit: Samuel Axon ]
Today, Apple launched a 24-hour streaming video channel called Apple Music TV that will harken back to the early days of MTV by playing mostly music videos—but in this case, it’s ad-free.
Viewers will be able to watch the channel in either the TV app (on an Apple device like a Mac, iPhone, or Apple TV) or the Music app (it’s found in the Browse tab). Additionally, you can find it at apple.co/AppleMusicTV.
There is no live chat, there aren’t any interactive features, and there’s no integration at all with the Apple Music app (like the ability to favorite songs), so users may find the service is barebones compared to some other music-focused streaming offerings.
Apple is expanding its investment in music with today’s launch of “Apple Music TV.” The new music video station offers a free, 24-hour livestream of popular music videos and other music content, including, exclusive video premieres, curated music video blocks, live shows, fan events, chart countdowns and guest appearances.
The service doesn’t have its own dedicated app, but is instead offered as a new feature within two of Apple’s existing entertainment apps. At launch, you can watch Apple Music TV from within the Browse tab of either the Apple Music app or the Apple TV app. (Accessible via apple.co/AppleMusicTV).
While Apple Music is a paid subscription service, Apple Music TV will be free to users in the U.S., the company says.
To kick off its launch, Apple Music TV today began with a countdown of the top 100 most-streamed songs ever across all of Apple Music, based on U.S. data.,
During brief tests of the new service, we found it to be a fairly basic (if uncensored) experience. The video stream only offered artist and song details at the beginning, instead of as the music played. It also didn’t take advantage of the integration with Apple Music to offer additional features to paying subscribers — like being able to favorite the song or add it to a playlist, for instance.
The stream would stop when the Apple Music app was closed, as it didn’t support background play.
There also weren’t any on-screen tools to share what you were watching via a social media post. You had to dig to find the “share” button under the three-dot, “more” menu. This would give you a link to tweet, but wouldn’t pre-fill it with text or hashtags, like the artist name or song.
While listening, you could stop the livestream and then return after a short pause. But after a bit, the stream would disconnect and the thumbnail of the paused music video reverts to the placeholder Apple Music TV image. When live, the text and icons will be shown in red. They revert to white when you’ve disconnected, as a visual cue.
Despite its simplicity, Apple Music TV gives Apple an immediate new home for its music-related original content, which over the years has included exclusive interviews, concert films, and more. It also provides Apple with another advantage with it goes to negotiate with artists for their premieres, as it introduces additional platform for reaching an artist’s fans — not only with the premiere itself, but by offering artists blocks of airtime leading up to their next debut that they can use to promote their releases.
The new station can also leverage content produced for the Apple Music 1 (formerly Beats 1) radio station, as it goes about running these promotions.
For example, on Thursday, October 22, Apple Music TV will promote the upcoming release of Bruce Springsteen’s “Letter to You” with music video blocks featuring his greatest videos, plus as exclusive interview with Zane Lowe, and a special livestream fan event.
Fridays, meanwhile, will focus on new music. This Friday, October 23, at 9 AM PT Apple Music TV will showcase two new exclusive video premieres – Joji’s “777” and SAINt JHN’s “Gorgeous.”
Apple Music TV’s biggest advantage, of course, is the fact that it’s freely accessible to millions of Apple device owners.
But it may struggle for traction as it lacks the features that make other livestream fan events or premieres engaging — like group chats or direct interactions with creators.
Instead, it’s more like a traditional TV broadcast — even MTV-like — compared with other online destinations where artists today connect with fans and promote their albums, like YouTube, VEVO, or more recently, Facebook, which just this year launched music videos.
Apple didn’t say if it planned to expand the new station outside the U.S.
Apple told me today that it will be extending AppleTV+ subscriptions that are set to end November 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 through their billing date in February of 2021.
The basic situation is that Apple gave away a free year of AppleTV+ to new device purchasers last year and those are all set to end in November. Apple knows everyone is still looking at a tough winter ahead filled with COVID-related restrictions so it’s bumping those subs out to February.
Monthly users whose subscription start date is before November 1st, 2020 also get a deal, with a $4.99 credit (the cost of an AppleTV+ subscription) appearing for every month between November 2020 and February 2021. You do not have to do anything to receive the credit and users will be getting emails notifying them of these extensions/credits.
And, of course, if it gets to hold the total sub number steady through Q4 of a tough economic year so much the better, right?
AppleTV+ had a bit of a slow burn start, with a big sub onramp in the form of devices and some high profile launches that were tempered by early reviews of their marquee programming. But people warmed to the shows over time.
I believed at the time that it was a bit of natural sugar crash happening.
That proved out over time as The Morning Show ended up winning AppleTV+ its first Prime Time Emmy award.
Total award nominations for Apple Originals now number 114 with 35 wins.
And, by the way, Ted Lasso is one of the more clever and humane shows currently streaming at the moment. Please go watch it, it’s a well acted melange of sport, non-toxic masculinity and heart felt drama.
Also, as a quick note, if you were a day 1 purchaser of an iOS device last year it’s possible that your free year is actually ending October 31st, don’t worry, you’re covered in this offer too.
Here are the particulars of the deal, for easy copying and pasting:
- If your AppleTV+ subscription ends on November 1, 2020 through January 31 of 2021 Apple is extending the free year to your sub date in February of 2021.
- This means that the yearly subscriber extension applies to people who subbed prior to January 31, 2020.
- As an example, if your sub was set to end November 15th 2020 then your first billing date would now be February 15th, 2020.
- If people signed up for yearly subs without a new device purchase during that same date period they will also get free through February 2021.
- If you have signed up for a monthly subscription before November 1st, 2020, you’ll get a $4.99 credit per month.
- The new device program where you get a year free will still continue.
- Customers will get emails about this.
When Apple launched the Apple TV 4K streaming box and first announced support for 4K and HDR in the iTunes movie store back in 2017, it had managed to sign up most major studios. But there was one holdout in terms of offering its catalog in UltraHD: Disney.
For three years, users in Apple’s ecosystem had to settle for 1080p HD to watch, say, the Marvel movies or Pixar animated films. Today, it looks like that’s changing in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. A plethora of Disney-made films inclusive of numerous Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Walt Disney Studios animated films are available in Apple’s storefront in both 4K and Dolby Vision HDR. They also support Dolby Atmos audio.
Examples include Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and Thor Ragnarok.
In case you missed Apple’s hour-long keynote, here’s everything that was announced — including some things you might have missed.
One of Apple’s big announcements is the new Apple Watch Series 6, priced at $399. The new wearable comes with a new Apple S6 silicon chip with an always-on energy-saving display. It also lands with a blood oxygen sensor.
Apple also announced a newer low-cost wearable, Apple Watch SE, which it priced at $279.
Family Setup: The new Family Setup option lets families stay connected, even when some members of the family don’t have an iPhone. It also comes with a family tracking feature, which lets parents make sure their kids have checked into school or sports practice, for example.
Fitness+: Apple is launching a new fitness subscription, landing at $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year. The service is available from inside the Activity app, and takes aim at in-home fitness services, which have taken off in part because of the ongoing pandemic. But so far, the fitness market doesn’t seem too flustered by the move.
Solo Loop: You can now get a Solo Loop for your Apple Watch, a single band that drops the standard clasp in favor of stretchy silicon. It comes in seven colors and a range of sizes.
The new Apple Watch Series 6 arrives September 18.
Next up, the iPad. Apple said it’s refreshing the iPad line-up with a new fourth-generation iPad Air. The new slimline iPad Air lands with a 10.9-inch 2360×1640 resolution Retina display and replaces the Lightning port with a USB-C cable. The new iPad Air comes with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button, and a new 12-megapixel, 4K-capable rear camera.
New A14 Bionic chip: Apple unveiled its new, super-fast five nanometer A14 Bionic chip, landing in the new iPad Air. It’s packed with close to 12 billion transistors, 40% up on the previous iteration of chips, and has a 16-core neural engine for apps that rely on machine learning and artificial intelligence.
New colors: Apple has two new colors on top of the existing silver, space gray and rose gold to now include green and sky blue.
New eighth-generation iPad: The new eighth-generation iPad got a refresh, too, packed with an earlier A12 Bionic chip, giving the iPad a much-needed performance boost.
With an Apple subscription for TV, music, games, as well as iCloud storage charges, Apple is rolling its subscriptions into one place under its new Apple One plan. There are three tiers — one for individuals, another for families, and the top-tier includes the full package of Apple’s subscription services.
iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 14, and tvOS 14
Apple said its long-awaited software updates will arrive tomorrow — September 16. That includes iOS 14 for iPhones, iPadOS 14 for iPads, watchOS 14 for Apple Watch wearables and tvOS14 for Apple TV boxes.
And iOS 14 comes with new privacy and security features, a new and improved Maps, a redesigned Siri and a new in-built translator app.
No word yet on macOS Big Sur, Apple’s next desktop and laptop operating system. A release date is expected out in the next few weeks ahead of the holiday season.
After months of rumors that it was right around the corner, Apple’s subscription bundle has finally been announced. Dubbed Apple One, the service combines multiple Apple services like Apple Arcade, Apple TV+, and Apple News+ into one subscription—a page from Amazon’s book, to be sure.
Apple One will offer three tiers. The lowest-priced one, at $14.95/mo, includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage for a single user. The next one up, “Family,” offers those same services to multiple family users for $19.95/mo. The highest-priced “Premier” tier, at $29.95/mo, includes bundled magazine subscription service Apple News+ and Fitness+ as well, along with a bump to 2TB of iCloud storage.
Apple says these plans will roll out “this fall,” with a 30-day free trial for all new users to determine which tier is best for them.
CBS All Access content in the Apple TV app. [credit: Apple ]
As iPhone sales have slowed, Apple has leaned on services like the App Store, Apple Music, and Apple TV+ to make up some of the difference. And while the first of those is currently gripped in public controversy, Apple today announced new developments for Music and TV+.
First off, Apple says Apple TV+ subscribers will be able to subscribe to a bundle that includes both CBS All Access and Showtime (both owned by ViacomCBS) for $9.99 per month after a 7-day trial, integrated with Apple features like the TV app, Siri, and Family Sharing.
Subscribers to the bundle will be able to access programming from both services in online streaming and offline download formats, and this bundle includes the ad-free version of CBS All Access. Since Apple TV+ costs $4.99, that means the trio of services will come in at just under $15—about the same price all together as HBO Max on its own.
Apple is reportedly getting ready to launch new bundles of its various subscription services, according to Bloomberg. The bundled services packages, said to be potentially called ‘Apple One,’ will include Apple services including Apple Music, Apple Arcade, Apple TV+, Apple News+ and iCloud in a number of different tiered offerings, all for one fee lower that would be lower than subscribing to each individually.
Bloomberg says that these could launch as early as October, which is when the new iPhone is said to be coming to market. Different package options will include one entry-level offering with Apple Music and Apple TV+, alongside an upgrade option that adds Apple Arcade, and other that also includes Apple News+. A higher-priced option will also bundle in extra iCloud storage, according to the report, though Bloomberg also claims that these arrangements and plans could still change prior to launch.
While the final pricing isn’t included in the report, it does say that the aim is to save subscribers between $2 and $5 per month depending on the tier, vs. the standard cost of subscribing to those services currently. All subscriptions would also work with Apple’s existing Family Sharing system, meaning up to six members of a single household can have access through Apple’s existing shared family digital goods infrastructure.
Apple is also said to be planning to continue its strategy of bundling free subscriptions to its services with new hardware purchases – a tactic it used last year with the introduction of Apple TV+, which it offered free for a year to customers who bought recently-released Apple hardware.
Service subscription bundling is move that a lot of Apple observers have been calling for basically ever since Apple started investing more seriously in its service options. The strategy makes a lot of sense, especially in terms of helping Apple boost adoption of its services which aren’t necessarily as popular as some of the others. It also provides a way for the company to begin to build out a more comprehensive and potentially stable recurring revenue business similar to something like Amazon Prime, which is a regular standout success story for Amazon in terms of its fiscal performance.
Philips has steadily expanded its Hue line of smart lighting products to cover the entire home, inside and out. But while the ability to remotely control your lighting, including adjusting color, intensity and brightness is great, one of its more recent products focuses more on how to turn all those connected lights into a dynamic, at-home interactive entertainment experience. The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is a relatively simple device that sits between your video sources, including things like game consoles and the Apple TV, and your television, enabling synced light shows that can take advantage of a wide range of Hue products.
The Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is at core an HDMI switcher, offering four HDMI inputs and a single HDMI output. Signals from your input devices (ie. Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, PS4, etc.) go into the box, and are passed through to the TV, with switching happening automatically depending on which device is most recently active (you can also change them manually with the app and with voice controls).
The Sync Box supports a range of modern quality standards for display and audio, and even more recently thanks to a firmware update released by Philips earlier this year. It supports 4K 60Hz resolution, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision standards, as well as Dolby Atmos surround sound. It also supports HDMI 2.0b with HDCP 2.2 compliance for copyright protection.
You will need not only Hue colored lights, but also a Hue Bridge (the second-generation, rounded square version) to ensure that the Hue Sync Box is more than just a particularly expensive HDMI hub, but it does that job very well, too. If you do have Hue products, like the Hue Play light bars that can easily mount on top of your TV stand or to the back of your TV itself, or the Hue Signe multi-colored floor or table lamps, then you can use the Sync companion app to ensure your lights reflect what’s going on on screen – for any video that plays through the box from any source.
Design and performance
Why would you want this? Well, mostly because it looks really, really cool. Hue Sync has already been available as a software feature for you to use with video played back on Macs and PCs, when used in combination with a monitoring tool, but that has a lot of limitations, including not being able to work with official Netflix apps and Netflix in the browser. The Sync Box eliminates any potential roadblocks and also means you can use regular streaming and gaming sources without having to run a media center PC.
The box itself is relatively large, but that seems like it’s mostly to accommodate the multiple HDMI ports. It’s very short, despite being about twice the surface area of an Apple TV, so it should be very easy to integrate into your existing home theatre setup, whatever that entails.
Setting up the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is very easy, and requires only installing the app and pressing the sync button on your Hue Bridge when instructed to do so. As mentioned, you can plug in up to four sources and the box will switch between them automatically when you use an input device, or you can also manually change the input (and rename them) using the app. The app also allows you to tweak the intensity, brightness and responsiveness of the light, making it more subtle or more extreme, depending on your preferences and your activity. A ‘Game’ setting, for instance, sets it to maximum intensity and responsiveness for a more dynamic effect befitting fast-paced interactive content.
I found that the lighting was extremely good at mimicking the colors and brightness of a scene, especially if you take the time to accurately set up the position of your Hue lights for a dedicated “entertainment area” in the official main Hue app. It’s an effect that, when used in its most subtle settings, can basically fade away but still provide genuine enhancement for the watching experience, making it feel more immersive. At its maxed out settings, it’s much more noticeable, but still something that basically fades away into the background over an extended period of use, in a good way.
Especially since the firmware update, the Hue Play Sync Box has proven a fantastic addition to my home theater setup, providing an extra bit of flair to every TV watching experience. It’s obviously more effective in dark rooms, but it really seems to especially complement high-quality OLED screens that produce vibrant colors and true, deep blacks.
The Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is a bit of an extravagance at $229.99, but it definitely adds to the overall home TV-watching experience, for movies, streaming, and for gaming. The four HDMI inputs mean you can also use it to add more ports to your TV, if that’s something you need, and the recent updates mean you’re not going to sacrifice any video quality while doing so.
Apple is expanding its relationship with media mogul Oprah Winfrey. The company announced today its plans for a new series, “The Oprah Conversation,” which will feature timely discussions between Oprah and “newsmakers, though leaders and masters of their craft” across a range of topics. The first few episodes will focus on conversations around race, given recent events like the BLM protests.
The series, which was filmed remotely during the pandemic, will begin on July 30 at 4 PM PST with an episode titled “How to Be an Antiracist,” which will see Oprah and bestselling author Professor Ibram X. Kendi talking with book readers who are on a journey to learn how to become anti-racist. This episode will then be followed by a two-part interview with athlete, commentator, activist and creator and host of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” Emmanuel Acho on August 1.
Oprah will also converse with Equal Justice Initiative founder and bestselling author Bryan Stevenson later in the series.
The show’s format will include Oprah speaking with guests, but will also incorporate audience engagement, like viewer questions.
This is the third series that Oprah is now doing for Apple, having launched “Oprah Talks COVID-19” in late March, and “Oprah’s Book Club” last year, as part of her multi-year agreement with the company. Another show, produced in partnership with Prince Harry and focused on mental health, has yet to arrive. Oprah also participated in Apple’s documentary series, “Visible: Out on Television.”
Unfortunately for Apple, Oprah’s multi-year deal is overlapping with a pandemic which has shut down TV production leading to the launch of these “filmed remotely”-style series.
Oprah’s COVID series, for example, was quickly put together in reaction to the health crisis and used lower production values, making it a first of its kind on Apple TV+. Before its arrival, Apple TV+ content had been highly produced and offered in 4K. But those initial experiments in remote TV production made further shows like this new series possible.
While much of Apple TV+ content requires a subscription, “The Oprah Conversation” will debut exclusively on the service for free on Thursday, July 30, Apple says. After the first free episode, the remainder of the series will require a $4.99 per month Apple TV+ subscription to view. The Apple TV+ service is available across devices, including Apple’s own, as well as select smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.
Tom Hanks’ “Greyhound” is the latest movie to skip theaters and head straight to streaming — in this case, to Apple TV+. Deadline reported last month that Apple had picked up the film, which now has a release date of July 10.
Sony had previously pushed back the movie’s release multiple times, most recently settling on June 19 (Father’s Day weekend).
Of course, those plans were scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting theatrical closures. Although theaters are preparing to reopen with new social distancing measures, with Warner Bros’ “Tenet” and Disney’s “Mulan” scheduled for release in July, it remains to be seen whether moviegoers are ready to return.
Meanwhile, studios have taken different strategies for different films — delaying some, accelerating VOD/streaming releases for others and either skipping theaters for their own streaming services (in the case of Disney) or selling films to streamers (in the case of Netflix and “The Lovebirds”). Sony went the latter route, with “Greyhound” going to Apple.
Aaron Schneider directed the film, while Hanks wrote the screenplay based on C.S. Forester’s novel “The Good Shepherd.” He also stars as a first-time Naval captain during World War II who has to protect a convoy of 37 ships from Nazi U-boats.
Apple was already working with Hanks on “Masters of Air,” a World War II series executive produced by Hanks, Gary Goetzman (who also produced “Greyhound”) and Steven Spielberg.
Gone are the days of not having enough time to catch up on all of those movies and TV shows you’ve been meaning to get around to. For the foreseeable future, at least, many of us have nowhere to go and nothing but time on our hands.
We’ve already offered a few suggestions for ways to spend your newfound downtime, but there’s a more pragmatic question at hand. With this week’s arrival of HBO Max, an overcrowded streaming market becomes even more competitive, particularly here in the United States. Gone are the days of Netflix’s streaming supremacy (at least from a content perspective). There’s a streaming service for virtually every need and nearly every one is best at something (with the possible exception of Apple TV+, with its fairly sparse selection, and whatever is going on with Quibi).
In a perfect world, we would all be able to subscribe to every service and never have to leave the house again. But those $5-$15/month fees add up pretty quickly when you’re not looking. For most of us, choosing the right service or service requires a bit of strategic spending. As such, we’re going to make life a bit easier on you and your wallet by designating the top services across 10 key categories.
Again, this is a U.S.-focused list, since that’s where we’re based. But many of these services are available outside the States, or will be in the next year or two.
The best service for … Prestige TV
Winner: HBO Max
The debate about the best TV show of all time always seems to wind up on HBO. The premium cable network has transformed expectations around what television can and should do, with shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” regularly cited at the top of the list of all-time greats. And then there’s “Westworld,” “Game of Thrones,” newcomers like “Succession” and top-tier comedy like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Eastbound and Down” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” Not every series has been a slam-dunk, but as far as prestige episodic television is concerned, you’re not going to do any better than HBO. (B.H.)
The best service for … Blockbusters
Disney has dominated the theatrical box office for the past decade, thanks to its acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm/Star Wars — not to mention the continued popularity of its animated films and live-action remakes. Disney+ is where you can catch up with almost all those big-budget hits, and it will be the streaming home for future Marvel blockbusters. (A.H.)
The best service for … Classics
Winner: Criterion Channel/HBO Max
While Criterion’s reputation can seem forbiddingly arty (see below) — of course, some art films are stone cold movie classics — the service also offers plenty of classic Hollywood titles, like a recent retrospective showcasing Columbia noir. If you’re a kaiju fan, it also has nearly every old-schoool Godzilla movie in its library. That said, it isn’t the only place you can find classic titles. HBO Max, in particular, is the streaming home to Turner Classic Movies, with some of the best films of all time, including “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane.” It also has a deal to offer some Criterion titles, too. (A.H.)
The best service for … Documentaries
Winner: HBO Max/CuriosityStream
As with its drama and comedy series, there’s really no one out there who can touch HBO’s documentary output. The network has consistently racked up Emmy wins since the late ’90s. It’s had some added competition from Netflix in recent years, but HBO continues to deliver, including last year’s heart-wrenching ‘Leaving Neverland.’ If you like your documentaries served with a side of more documentaries, however, there’s always CuriosityStream. $20/year will get you a boatload of original docs, broken down by category. (B.H.)
The best service for … Kids
All the big streaming services have a selection of movies and shows for kids, but it’s hard to beat the titles in Disney’s library — all their animated classics, plus Pixar, plus Disney Channel hits like “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Hannah Montana” and “High School Musical.” HBO Max is a strong runner-up with Sesame Street and the full Studio Ghibli library, but if your kid wants to sing along to “Frozen” over and over again, this is where they can do it. (A.H.)
The best service for … Indies
Winner: Hulu/Criterion Channel
Most streaming services (save for Apple TV+ and Disney+) have a pretty sizable selection of indies. The quality of the films varies greatly from service to service and film to film, but nearly all of them have some hidden gems for when you’re looking to spend a bit of time outside of the studio system. As far as the mainstream ones go, I was surprised to discover during this quarantine that Hulu has the best selections of the bunch, courtesy of deals with top notch indie distributors. If you want a straight shot of the stuff, however, the Criterion Channel is your best bet — and the supplementary content is unmatched by other services. (B.H.)
The best service for … Free stuff
To be honest, I had no idea Tubi existed until recently. I was searching for a Korean movie about a baseball playing gorilla (it’s real, seriously), and landed on the site, where it was streaming for free with ad breaks. You would probably end up banging your head against the wall if you relied on Tubi as your sole streaming service, but its selection is surprisingly solid. There are genuinely good films in there, in amongst the dregs. There are also plenty of dregs there, if that’s your thing. Also check out Walmart’s Vudu. In addition to your standard rentals, the service also has a decent selection of free films. (B.H.)
The best service for … Star Trek
Winner: CBS All Access
It might seem silly to build an entire streaming service around a single entertainment franchise, but a) Have you met Star Trek fans? And b) That was clearly the strategy behind CBS All Access, which has already released two Trek spinoffs, “Discovery” and “Picard.” Although the newly remerged ViacomCBS seems to have broader streaming plans, Star Trek still seems like a centerpiece of that strategy, with a whole bunch of new Trek content being developed under the supervision of Alex Kurtzman. (That said, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are sufficient if you just want to rewatch The Original Series or The Next Generation.) (A.H.)
The best service for … Arthouse
Winner: Criterion Channel
Been missing trips to the local arthouse theater? With places like the Anthology Film Archives, Museum of the Moving Image and Angelika temporarily shut down here in New York, I’ve been finding some respite in the Criterion Collection’s truly excellent curated selection of films. While it’s true that sometimes the best thing for the pandemic is a little mindless movie watching, if you want to take in some culture without leaving the house, Criterion’s got you covered. (B.H.)
The best service for … a lot of everything
You may be wondering why we’ve barely mentioned the streaming world’s biggest player. That’s because Netflix isn’t actually the best in any one category — at least in our view. Instead, it’s pretty good in a whole bunch of categories, whether that’s older TV shows, classic films, original series like “The Crown” and “Stranger Things,” reality hits like “Tiger King” and original movies like “The Irishman.” So if you want a single service that scratches a whole bunch of different itches, Netflix is still your best bet. (A.H.)
This documentary about allegations against the music mogul Russell Simmons generated controversy at Sundance when Oprah Winfrey pulled out as an executive producer.
With production temporarily halted on so many films and television shows, casts and crews are getting creative about bringing new content to all the people fighting off ennui while sheltering in place. Late night hosts are putting together mini-talk shows from home, the main cast of Parks and Recreation virtually reunited for a special episode, and performers from various Hairspray productions (stage and screen) put together a show-stopping group performance of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” to benefit the Actor’s Fund. Now an Apple TV+ comedy series is getting into the game by teasing a very special episode, Mythic Quest: Quarantine, dropping next week.
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is a sitcom set in the offices of a game development studio; it debuted earlier this year, to mostly positive reviews. Co-creator and star Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) got the idea for the series after chatting with representatives from video game publisher Ubisoft about building a sitcom around gaming. The company even designed some of the fictional video game characters and game world used on the show, as well as serving as consultants for small details and technical jargon.
McElhenney plays Ian Grimm, creator of an epic fantasy game called Mythic Quest, with a story written by an aging hippie novelist, C.W. Longbottom (F. Murray Abraham). In S1, the company is planning the first narrative expansion for the game, Raven’s Banquet. Community‘s Danny Pudi plays the “head of monetization,” Brad, with David Hornsby (another It’s Always Sunny alum) playing executive producer David Brittlesbee. There’s also chief engineer Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao, A gURLs wURLd ), Dana (Imani Hakim, Everyone Hates Chris), and Rachel (Ashley Burch, Borderlands 2), whose job is to test the games for bugs.
There are few more messages more timely than the opening line, “Dance your cares away, worry’s for another day” (or is it “worries?”). Today the familiar Fraggle Rock bass line returns, along with the titular felt underground dwellers, as the first of a new series of mini-episodes hits Apple TV+.
Apple’s streaming service will post free short episodes of Fraggle Rock: Rock On! each Tuesday, starring a familiar parade of Muppets, including Gobo, Red, Boober, Mokey, Wembley, Uncle Traveling Matt and those poor, hardworking Doozers.
Arguably even more interesting than the show itself is the circumstances of its production. As the global COVID-19 pandemic has brought television production to a screeching halt, the show’s producers have taken to creating the show remotely. “ In accordance with the Covid-19 ‘Safer at Home’ guidelines,” Apple writes in a release, “Fraggle Rock: Rock On! is all shot on iPhone 11 phones from the homes of the production team and individual artists from all over the U.S.”
If nothing else, the current pandemic has proven how creative people can be with an internet account and a lot of free time. It’s already has already reshaped how we view musical and comedy performances as a long parade of creatives have opened their homes to the internet. A new Fraggle Rock series demonstrates what can be done when you add a bit of production values into the mix.
The series joins a number of familiar childhood properties being revamped for the platform, including Peanuts (Snoopy in Space) and Ghostwriter.
Apple will introduce four new iPhones this fall, according to a Bloomberg report, and at least some of them will sport a new design reminiscent of the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models or the iPhone 5.
Citing people familiar with Apple’s plans, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman writes that in addition to successors to 2019’s iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, Apple will introduce not one but two successors to the iPhone 11. However, the report does not go into as much detail about the lower-end phones as it does the flagships.
The 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max successors will have “flat, stainless steel edges… as well as sharply rounded corners” similar to what you may remember from the iPhone 5 back in 2012, and likely taking much more explicit cues from the iPad Pro design first introduced in 2018 and refreshed just a few weeks ago. They will also have flat screens rather than the curved edges found in today’s iPhones, and smaller notches on the front. Also, at least the larger of the two flagships will have a slightly larger screen than its predecessor.
Opening the app after the update gives you this quick note. [credit: Samuel Axon ]
iPhone and iPad users are now able to purchase and rent videos from Amazon directly in the Amazon Prime Video iOS and iPadOS apps in an apparent reversal of a longstanding limitation in Amazon’s apps on those platforms.
Users discovered the changes in an Amazon Prime Video iOS app update—the app now displays a pop-up notifying users of the new functionality. Neither Apple nor Amazon has made an announcement about the change elsewhere yet.
Historically, Amazon Prime Video and some other apps similar to it were limited to consumption of content acquired outside the app. So the previous version of the Prime Video app let users watch videos they’d purchased on say, Amazon’s website, but it would not let them purchase those videos directly from the app. And in cases where app developers do offer in-app purchases, those purchases are generally made through Apple’s own payment system.
Earlier today, Apple continued its tradition of updating all of its operating systems at once. The day brought major new feature releases to iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. The iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS updates are numbered 13.4, Apple Watches got watchOS 6.2, and Macs saw the release of macOS Catalina 10.15.4.
For many of its platforms, Apple releases annual overhauls labeled, say, iOS 13, and introduces new features through the year with just one “dot”—hence iOS 13.4. Smaller, bug-fix oriented updates are usually labeled something like iOS 13.4.1.
As the nomenclature suggests, this is a feature update. For the most part, the big features introduced today were already rumored or known to be planned. The big three are arguably full trackpad and pointer support for recent iPad, iCloud Drive folder sharing, and universal app purchases.
Over the weekend, Apple introduced the first two episodes of its new Apple TV+ show, “Oprah Talks COVID-19,” for free viewing. In the first episode, Oprah Winfrey interviews actor Idris Elba, who recently tested positive for coronavirus, as well as his wife, Sabrina Dhowre, who is also positive. In the second episode, Oprah talks to longtime friend and supporter Reverand Wintly Phipps about the pandemic.
The interviews are conducted over FaceTime video calls with guests and are meant to offer hope and thought leadership, Oprah explained on Twitter.
“Like millions of people all over the world, I’ve been staying safer at home for over a week now. I know a lot of people are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, & uncertain,” Oprah wrote in a tweet. “[Because] of that, I want to offer some hope & gather thought leaders & people going through it to add some perspective,” she said.
In her interview with Elba, they talk about his decision to go public and his wife’s decision to quarantine with him, plus the result of her test. The shows have a more inspirational tone, compared with traditional news interviews.
“I think we all lose as human beings if we just think of this as a physical virus. I think it’s here to teach us, show us something about ourselves, as a world. This is a moment for our humanity to either rise or not,” Oprah says in one episode.
Though the majority of Apple TV+ programming is only available on a subscription basis, this COVID-19 show is available for free.
It can be watched across platforms, including via the Apple TV app for Mac, iPad, iPhone, tv.apple.com and Apple TV, as well as through the Apple TV+ app for streaming platforms or via AirPlay-enabled TVs.
The program is one of several Oprah is involved with for Apple TV+.
In 2018, Oprah and Apple announced a multi-year partnership on original content for the Apple TV+ streaming service. That has already resulted in an Apple TV+ show that brings back Oprah’s Book Club as a series of author interviews. Another show, produced in partnership with Prince Harry and focused on mental health, has yet to arrive. A third, a documentary about sexual assault in the music industry, was canceled.
This new show, put together quickly in reaction to the COVID-19 crisis and using lower-production values, is the first show of its kind on Apple TV+, where the content is typically highly produced and made available in 4K. Apple hasn’t said how many episodes will arrive in total, but this is a unique situation.
It’s been two-and-a-half years since the news first broke that Steven Spielberg would be rebooting his ’80s anthology series “Amazing Stories” for Apple’s then-unnamed streaming service.
Now, after some behind-the-scenes drama, “Amazing Stories” has launched on Apple TV+, with the first two segments currently available. The first, “The Cellar,” is a time travel romance, while “The Heat” is a combination ghost story/murder mystery/sports drama.
As we explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, it’s hard to tell exactly who this show was made for. Both of the episodes aired so far get pretty goofy, as if the show was made for kids — but they also move into surprisingly dark territory. Both start with familiar setups, then take some surprising twists and turns, but the results aren’t very satisfying.
In the end, it was hard for any of us to muster any enthusiasm for watching the show’s remaining three episodes.
You can listen to our full review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple . You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)
And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:44 “Amazing Stories” review
25:50 “Amazing Stories” spoiler discussion
For months, we’ve seen reports and rumors that Apple is on the brink of introducing its own answer to Amazon Prime: a bundled subscription service that would offer users access to Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple News+ for one flat fee. But a new article providing details about Apple’s newly signed deals with major record labels for Apple Music calls that prediction into question—at least for the near term.
According to a report in Financial Times, Apple Music has inked new deals with the record labels Sony Music, Warner Music Group, and Universal Music Group to continue to offer those labels’ artists’ work on Apple’s streaming service for years to come. That includes huge names like Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, Blake Shelton, and Mariah Carey.
That said, the new deals do not “include an economic agreement to bundle Apple Music with the company’s television service,” according to Financial Times’ sources. Late last year, Bloomberg reported that Apple was pursuing a plan to bundle Apple TV+, Apple Music, and Apple News+ in one service. (Apple Arcade and the company’s other services were not mentioned.)
Over the past few days, two Apple rumor sites (MacRumors and 9to5Mac) have published exclusive details about new features and changes in iOS 14 and related software, services, and products. 9to5Mac alleges the info is based on leaked iOS 14 code that it obtained, while MacRumors is vaguer, simply using phrases like “according to information obtained by MacRumors.”
It’s a wide-ranging info dump that touches on everything from the iPad Pro to the iPhone 9, Apple TV, and important accessibility features. Now that the initial trickle of information seems to have slowed, we’re rounding up the major findings below. Much of this information will likely be confirmed or debunked this June when Apple usually announces its final plans for iOS 14 and other software and services.
As is often the case with significant new iOS features, a number of startups and smaller developers are threatened by some of these new additions. TechCrunch rounded up a list of some of those who have a rough road ahead of them, but there are likely others, too.
Earlier this week, Apple notified app developers of a revised set of App Store review guidelines—the rules by which Apple curates its iOS/iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and macOS App Stores.
Among many other things, the revised rules expand the definition of what constitutes a spam app, clarify that developers are able to use push notifications to serve ads to users (provided users explicitly opt in to them), and limit submissions of certain types of apps to trusted organizations in regulated or sensitive industries.
The most controversial of these changes has been the clear statement that developers can serve ads to users via push notifications. At one point in the past, Apple’s guidelines stated that push notifications “should not be used for advertising, promotions, or direct marketing purposes or to send sensitive personal or confidential information.” Now the guidelines state: