Apple TV+ to Celebrate Earth Day With Nature Docuseries ‘Big Beasts’ Narrated by Tom Hiddleston

Apple has announced the new 10-part documentary series “Big Beasts,” narrated by Emmy Award nominee Tom Hiddleston. The series is set to premiere globally on April 21 on Apple TV+.

From the creative team of the Apple TV+ docuseries “Tiny World,” “Big Beasts” was filmed over two years and takes audiences on an epic journey around the globe, from freezing poles to tropical rainforests, to meet nature’s most captivating giants.

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Two new episodes will premiere each week through May 19.

Jessica Chastain to Star in Limited Series ‘The Savant’ for Apple TV+

Apple TV+ announced  the production of “The Savant,” a new, eight-episode limited series starring Academy, SAG, Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award winner Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” “The Good Nurse,” “George & Tammy,” Broadway’s A Doll’s House).

Inspired by a true story published by Cosmopolitan, the storyline and character details are being kept under wraps for “The Savant,” which will be written and showrun by Emmy Award nominee Melissa James Gibson (“Anatomy of a Scandal,” “House of Cards,” “The Americans”), whose overall deal is based at Fifth Season. Academy Award nominee, six-time Emmy Award winner and two-time DGA winner Matthew Heineman (“A Private War,” “Retrograde,” “Cartel Land”) will direct and serve as executive producer.

In addition to starring, Chastain will executive produce through Freckle Films, and Fifth Season (“Severance,” “Chief of War,” “Lady in the Lake”) and Anonymous Content (the upcoming “Time Bandits,” “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” “Dickinson”) are the studios.

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Scorsese Film ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ to Bow in Theaters Oct. 6 Before Streaming on Apple TV+

Apple Original Films announced that Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon will first be released exclusively in theaters worldwide, in partnership with Paramount Pictures, limited on Friday, Oct. 6, and wide on Friday, Oct. 20, before streaming globally on Apple TV+.

Directed by Scorsese and written for the screen by Eric Roth and Scorsese, based on David Grann’s bestselling book of the same name, Killers of the Flower Moon is set in 1920s Oklahoma and depicts the serial murder of members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation, a string of brutal crimes that came to be known as the Reign of Terror. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion and Tantoo Cardinal.

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Hailing from Apple Studios, Killers of the Flower Moon was produced alongside Imperative Entertainment, Sikelia Productions and Appian Way. Producers are Scorsese, Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas and Daniel Lupi, with DiCaprio, Rick Yorn, Adam Sommer, Marianne Bower, Lisa Frechette, John Atwood, Shea Kammer and Niels Juul serving as executive producers.

Apple TV+ Set to Debut Boris Becker Tennis Doc on April 7

Apple TV+ is set to release the tennis documentary “Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker” on April 7.

The two-part doc event from Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side,” “Enron,” “The Armstrong Lie,” “Going Clear”) and Oscar-winning producer John Battsek (“One Day in September,” “Searching for Sugar Man,” “The Rescue, “The Deepest Breath”) explores every aspect of the controversial German tennis ace who became a sensation after winning Wimbledon at age 17, going on to win 49 career titles, including six Grand Slams and an Olympic gold medal.

The filmmakers had special access to Becker for more than three years, until late April 2022, when he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in the United Kingdom for hiding assets and loans to avoid paying his financial debts after declaring bankruptcy. Becker was released last December.

The doc features a series of interviews with Becker, including conversations the week of his sentencing, as well as with members of his immediate family and tennis stars including John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Novak Djokovic, Mats Wilander and Michael Stich.

The series joins Apple’s expanding offering of non-fiction programming featuring the behind-the-scenes stories of the biggest names in sports, including “Real Madrid: Until The End,” which goes behind the scenes with the famous Spanish soccer club for the 2021–2022 season; “Monster Factory,” following amateur wrestlers dreaming of going pro; “Make or Break,” a docuseries with the World Surf League; “Super League,” documenting the high stakes battle for the future of European soccer; the Emmy Award nominated four-part documentary series “They Call Me Magic,” chronicling the life and career of two-time NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson; and “The Long Game: Bigger Than Basketball” about basketball sensation Makur Maker.

Upcoming projects include a feature documentary about the life and career of seven-time Formula One world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton; documentary movie “Underrated,” featuring NBA legend Stephen Curry; and “The Dynasty,” a documentary series about the New England Patriots, from Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries, in association with NFL Films.

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Apple TV+ Comedy Series ‘Platonic’ Debuting May 24

Apple TV+ will debut the 10-episode comedy series “Platonic,” starring and executive produced by Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen, with the first three episodes May 24, followed by new episodes weekly, every Wednesday.

Co-created, directed, and co-written by Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco, the half-hour comedy follows a platonic pair of former best friends approaching midlife (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) who reconnect after a long rift. The duo’s friendship becomes all consuming — and destabilizes their lives in a hilarious way. The ensemble cast also includes Luke Macfarlane, Tre Hale, Carla Gallo and Andrew Lopez. 

“Platonic” is produced by Sony Pictures Television, where Stoller and Stoller’s Global Solutions has an overall deal.

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The series marks the latest collaboration for Apple TV+ and Byrne who also stars in the Apple Original series “Physical,” which is set to debut its third season later this year. Rogen is also set to star in an upcoming, untitled comedy series for Apple TV+ that he will write, direct and executive produce alongside Evan Goldberg.

Apple TV+ Takes Steps to Lift Profile, Including Big Spend on Original Movies

Struggling SVOD service Apple TV+ is reportedly set to spend $1 billion annually on original movies — with conventional theatrical windows — in an attempt to up its game and become more competitive among such higher-profile rivals as Paramount+ and Peacock.

Apple TV+, which reportedly has fewer than 40 million paid subscribers, has struggled out of the SVOD gate, relying on a small content slate of original programming, and avoiding licensing third-party shows and movies, to woo paid subscribers (consumers of Apple devices get a free 12-month subscription). The result has been largely indifference among Wall Street analysts, some of whom scoff at the platform’s lack of content.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter contends that despite a major marketing effort around the Apple TV+ launch, which included signing up Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steven Spielberg for original content, the finished product thus far has been underwhelming.

“It only had a handful of shows at launch,” Pachter wrote in a 2020 note to investors.

But that was then. Now, Apple is hoping to elevate its original feature film aspirations on the backs of studios and exhibitors looking to jumpstart the moviegoing experience among consumers.

The company is looking to partner with studios and for upcoming Apple TV+ releases such as director Matthew Vaughn’s espionage thriller Argylle, and director Ridley Scott’s historical drama Napoleon, starring Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte, according to Bloomberg, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

Apple TV+, unlike most other subscription streaming video services, has embraced the theatrical window since its inception in 2019. That loyalty was rewarded in 2022 when the streamer’s original movie CODA won best picture, best adapted screenplay and best supporting actor at the 2022 Academy Awards.

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Apple in 2021 paid a record $25 million for CODA at the Sundance Film Festival, yet generated less than $2 million at the box office. The 2021 crime drama Cherry, starring Spider-Man’s Tom Holland, fell victim to shuttered screens during the pandemic.

Apple reportedly eyes the theatrical window as a means of marketing Apple TV+ to consumers similar to the way the Emmy Award winning “Ted Lasso” and “The Morning Show” have done for for the platform’s episodic programming.

As a result, Apple would like to expand its movie distribution (and spending) beyond a few hundred screens to the conventional 3,000+ screen North American debut. Rival Netflix, which in 2021 acquired the  Egyptian Theatre in part to appease industry award rules regarding theatrical releases, this year extended an erstwhile non-theatrical release policy to include a 600-screen debut for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

If the company is going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a [director Martin] Scorsese movie, it wants to turn that into a cultural event,” according to Bloomberg.

“Film creators strongly believe in theatrical exhibition as a measure of success,” echoes Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter.

Samba TV: ‘Ted Lasso’ Season 3 Premiere Viewership Topped Season 2 by 60%

The season three debut of “Ted Lasso” on March 15 didn’t disappoint among Apple TV+ subscribers. New data from Samba TV about the award-winning show, starring Jason Sudeikis as an American college football coach hired to run a lowly ranked Premier League soccer team, suggests 870,000 U.S. households streamed episode one during the live + four-day window.

This was up 60% from 544,000 households for the season 2 debut episode. Ted Lasso S3 over-indexed among millennial households (25-34 years old) compared to the national average.

Samba TV senior executive Dallas Lawrence said the data affords Apple with an opportunity for Apple to leverage the show’s above-average viewership base into streamers of other Apple content.
“Sudeikis and team have done an admirable job putting fans in the stands, but many leave immediately after watching the show,” Lawrence said in a statement.

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Indeed, in the second half of 2022, “Ted Lasso” was the most-watched show on Apple TV+ by audiences that watched only one program on the platform, according to Samba.

“Large single-season viewership, plus big increases in year-over-year new viewers, and a deepening engagement across a wider selection of content on the platform, are the real hattrick Apple needs,” Lawrence said.

JustWatch: New Season of ‘Ted Lasso’ Tops Apple TV+ Content Viewing

The March 15 season three debut of “Ted Lasso” didn’t disappoint among Apple TV+ subscribers. The award-winning show starring Jason Sudeikis as an American college football coach hired to run a lowly ranked Premier League soccer team, accounts for 27.1% popularity of all Apple TV+ original programming, according to new data from JustWatch, which tracks the streaming video habits of 20 million users across 59 markets, including the United States.

“Ted Lasso,” which drops weekly episodes each Wednesday, ranked ahead of critically-acclaimed sci-fi show “Severance” (16.9%), starring Adam Scott as a company employee who volunteers to separate (“mindswipe”) his work and non-work memories from his consciousness in and out of the office; and “The Morning Show” (11.8%), co-starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell in the morning TV news drama.

All three shows have generated myriad industry awards and nominations.

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Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey to Star in Half-Hour Comedy for Apple TV+

Apple TV+ has announced a series order for a 10-episode half-hour comedy starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

Created by Emmy Award winner David West Read (upcoming “The Big Door Prize,” “Schitt’s Creek” and Broadway’s & Juliet), who will also serve as executive producer, the new comedy will be produced for Apple TV+ by Skydance Television.

The untitled comedy is an odd couple love story revolving around the strange and beautiful bond between McConaughey and Harrelson. Their friendship is tested when their combined families attempt to live together on McConaughey’s ranch in Texas.

In addition to starring, Harrelson and McConaughey will executive produce alongside Read. David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Matt Thunell will serve as executive producers for Skydance Television with Bill Bost and Jeremy Plager.  

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This series marks the latest collaboration for Apple TV+ and Skydance Television, and joins “The Big Door Prize,” which also hails from creator Read, and recently held its world premiere at SXSW ahead of its global debut on Apple TV+ on March 29. It will also join the second season of Apple’s “Foundation,” produced by Skydance Television, and set to premiere this summer.

Hub Research: Content Brands Matter in Crowded Streaming Universe

Viewers often have a hard time differentiating the brands of streaming services, and turn to known content or creative brands to help make viewing decisions, according to Hub Entertainment Research’s annual “Evolution of Video Branding” survey.

Brand awareness and brand familiarity are different. The vast sums expended on marketing during the streaming wars have been effective as all the major platforms have brand awareness above 90%, according to Hub.   

But as far as brand understanding, far fewer feel confident that they could explain to someone else what each platform does best, or how it’s different from the others. This is the case even for companies that are masters at branding, such as Apple. Almost all respondents said they were aware of Apple TV+, but fewer than half felt they understand its content offering. In the end, consumers are choosing between a well-known set of brands, without a clear understanding of what differentiates them, according to the study.

Without a clear understanding of the difference between platforms, consumers turn to other guideposts, such as program brands, according to Hub. In the study, 41% of viewers said they have signed up for a platform just to watch one specific show (up from 35% two years ago). This is even more pronounced among desirable audiences, such as young people. In the study, 57% of those age 16 to 34 said they have signed up to watch one particular show.

New shows based on familiar characters or histories have a leg up in the discovery process. In the study, 40% of all respondents said they would be more likely to watch a new show based on the Marvel universe (the highest of the 10 brands tested). But the next three highest were broadcast TV procedurals that have already had successful spinoffs.

Another example is the “Yellowstone” franchise (shows set in the world of “Yellowstone” or marketed as coming from the same creator). Among the respondents who had ever watched “Yellowstone,” almost three-fourths (70%) said they also watched at least one of Sheridan’s other shows (“1883,” “1923,” “Tulsa King” or “Mayor of Kingstown”). Perhaps most notably, viewers had to put in some effort to watch these: “Yellowstone” is on the Paramount cable network and on Peacock, while the other shows are only available on Paramount+.

“Viewers have not lacked in choice of services and content over the past few years. But this can be a two-edged sword for content providers, as the immense volume just makes it hard for viewers to remember what is different about each service,” David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “But at the end of the day, content is king, and unique content will drive viewers even if the service itself isn’t unique to consumers.”

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The findings are from Hub’s 2023 “Evolution of Video Branding” report, based on a survey conducted among 2,400 U.S. consumers with broadband, age 16-74, who watch at least one hour of TV per week. Interviews were conducted in February 2023 and explored attitudes towards brands associated with traditional TV service as well as those providing streaming TV service. A free excerpt of the findings is available on Hub’s website.