Apple aficionados have learned to wait for the end of its product announcements for the most tantalizing news: the “one more thing” that Steve Jobs would toss off, almost as an afterthought, and send the audience into a frenzy.
This time, the finale of Apple’s long-anticipated announcement launching its Apple TV+ video subscription service Monday in Cupertino — the signature moment that brought some in the audience to their feet — took human form. Oprah Winfrey strode on stage wearing Apple-white and, as the applause died down, responded with a comically understated, “Hi.”
Winfrey talked publicly for the first time about her multi-year deal with Apple — a partnership CEO Tim Cook has referenced frequently, if vaguely, on earnings calls with the Wall Street analysts.
The talk show host turned media executive said she’s working on a documentary dealing with the sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, currently titled Toxic Labor, and an untitled multi-part series exploring mental health issues.
“The Apple platform has allowed me to do what I do in a whole new way — connecting people and taking it to a whole new level, because they have a billion pockets y’all,” Winfrey said, a reference to the 1.4 billion Apple devices in use around the world that some analysts believe give its streaming service a competitive edge over established rivals, such as Netflix.
Winfrey was the headliner at an event packed with Hollywood celebrities. Director Steven Spielberg took the stage for his inaugural appearance at an Apple event to talk about his revival of the anthology series Amazing Stories.
Actors Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston touted their new project, The Morning Show, which explores the power and gender dynamics of morning news shows — an opportunity so appealing, the Friends star said it brought her back to TV.
Director J.J. Abrams shared the stage with Grammy-nominated artist Sara Bareilles to tout their collaboration on Little Voice, a show about a young, flawed artist finding her voice. Kumail Nanjiani of the HBO series Silicon Valley will explore immigrant stories in the series Our Little America. Even Sesame Street staple Big Bird stepped into the spotlight to announce a children’s series called Helpsters.
Apple spelled out its broad ambitions for the forthcoming streaming service, saying it had partnered with the most accomplished storytellers as it seeks to define Apple TV+ as a home for quality entertainment. The tech company did more showing than telling at the Steve Jobs Theater Monday — each celebrity presentation was notably devoid of trailers.
It’s possible that the marking impresarios at Apple are holding their promotional firepower until a date closer to the Apple TV+ launch. Today’s event serves as a placeholder, staking Apple’s claim on the TV landscape ahead of the Walt Disney Co.’s April 11 investor briefing to discuss details of the Disney+ streaming service, or the television industry’s Upfront presentations, showcasing the fall schedule.
The Apple TV+ service will launch sometime this fall — though pricing has not been announced. It will be available through an updated version of the Apple TV app that’s already on millions of iPhones, iPads and Apple TV streaming devices. A new version of the app, due out in May, will work like a cable-TV service, where users can choose which TV channels they want to pay for and watch, including HBO, Showtime and Starz.
On the same day as Apple’s big announcement for original programming, Bloomberg reported that Google has cancelled plans for big budget scripted shows on YouTube. Google denied claims from Bloomberg sources that said the tech giant stopped accepting pitches for original scripts, but confirmed plans to launch ad-supported programming alongside YouTube Premium, $11.99-per-month ad-free access to YouTube Music and original content.
-Dawn Chmielewski; Forbes Staff