Apple TV+ to Debut Sports Doc Series ‘Greatness Code’ July 10

Apple TV+ July 10 will exclusively debut globally the documentary series “Greatness Code,” featuring such top athletes as LeBron James and Tom Brady.

The short-form unscripted series spotlights untold stories from the top athletes in the world. The first season includes seven episodes, each examining a pivotal moment that defined an athlete’s career. Athletes profiled in season one include:

  • four-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist LeBron James;
  • six-time Super Bowl champion and four-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady;
  • Olympic gold medalist and co-captain of the US Women’s National Soccer Team Alex Morgan;
  • record-holding Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Shaun White;
  • world’s fastest man and eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt;
  • five-time Olympic gold medalist and 15-time world champion swimmer Katie Ledecky; and
  • 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater.

 

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“Greatness Code” is a co-production between sports content platforms Religion of Sports, which is co-founded by Gotham Chopra, Tom Brady and NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, and Uninterrupted, founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter.

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The series is directed by Chopra, who also executive produces through Religion of Sports, and executive produced by Maverick Carter via Uninterrupted. Ameeth Sankaran also serves as executive producer through Religion of Sports, and Devin Johnson executive produces via Uninterrupted.

HBO Max Launching on Apple Devices

WarnerMedia April 27 announced that HBO Max, the company’s pending subscription streaming video platform, will be available on Apple devices when it launches on May 27. That includes Apple TV.

Users will be able to access Max on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD. Customers with second and third generation Apple TV models can stream Max content from their iPhone or iPad to their TV with AirPlay. Existing HBO Now subs who are billed through the App Store and HBO subs through Apple TV channels can log in and access the Max app at no additional charge. New Max customers will be able to subscribe directly in the app using in-app purchase.

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“As we prepare for the launch of Max, our focus remains on making it as widely available as possible for customers seeking out this best-in-class streaming experience,” Rich Warren, president of WarnerMedia Distribution, said in a statement. “The availability to Max across Apple devices is a great addition to our distribution offering and will provide seamless access for millions of customers.”

Max, priced at $14.99, will bow with 10,000 hours of curated content and anchored by the entire HBO service, the platform will also include a slate of new original series, classic series and films from across WarnerMedia’s library and key third-party licensed programs and movies.

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The company recently announced its day one programming slate, which includes six all-new Max Originals — “Love Life,” “On the Record,” “Legendary,” “Craftopia,” “Looney Toons Cartoons” and “The Not Too Late Show with Elmo” — plus an extensive lineup of library and acquired programming including “Friends”; “The Big Bang Theory”; “Doctor Who”; “Rick and Morty”; “The Boondocks”; “The Bachelor”; “Sesame Street”; “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”; CW shows such as “Batwoman,” “Nancy Drew” and “Katy Keene”; the first season of DC’s “Doom Patrol”; “The O.C.”; “Pretty Little Liars”; and the CNN catalog of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” among others.

Other TV libraries include “South Park,” “Gossip Girl” and “The West Wing,” and more than 2,000 feature films within the first year, including classics Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, the “Lord of the Rings” movies, every DC film from the last decade, and films from Japan’s Studio Ghibli animation house.

Apple Expands Entertainment Services Globally, Excluding Apple TV+

Apple April 21 announced it is expanding the global reach for some of its entertainment platforms, including The App Store, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and iCloud, to 20 more countries. In addition, Apple Music, with more than 60 million subscribers, is available in 52 new countries.

The expansion does not include subscription streaming video platform Apple TV+, which launched last November in 106 countries.

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“We’re delighted to bring many of Apple’s most beloved services to users in more countries than ever before,” Oliver Schusser, Apple’s VP of Apple Music and International Content, said in a statement.

The services are now available in the following countries and regions:

  • Africa: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Libya, Morocco, Rwanda and Zambia.
  • Asia-Pacific: Maldives and Myanmar.
  • Europe: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.
  • Middle East: Afghanistan (excluding Apple Music) and Iraq.
  • Oceania: Nauru (excluding Apple Music), Tonga and Vanuatu.

 

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Apple Music is expanding to:

  • Africa: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Chad, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Tunisia.
  • Asia-Pacific: Bhutan.
  • Europe: Croatia, Iceland, and North Macedonia.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: the Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Turks and Caicos, and Uruguay.
  • Middle East: Kuwait, Qatar, and Yemen.
  • Oceania: Solomon Islands.

 

Apple Arcade is a video game subscription service within the App Store, offering users access to the catalog of more than 100 exclusive games, all playable across iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and Apple TV. Apple Podcasts feature more than 1 million shows in more than 100 languages and 175 countries and regions.

Apple Letting Some Video Services Bypass 30% App Store Fee

Apple has begun exempting select third-party streaming video services from paying a 30% App Store fee, or “Apple tax,” as SVODs such as Netflix characterize the surcharge.

Apple has long maintained that third-party services generating subscriptions through its iOS operating system be subjected to the fee. Now, it is letting Amazon Prime Video, Altice One and Canal+ skip paying it.

“Apple has an established program for premium subscription video entertainment providers to offer a variety of customer benefits — including integration with the Apple TV app, AirPlay 2 support, tvOS apps, universal search, Siri support and, where applicable, single or zero sign-on,” Apple said in a statement, first reported by The Verge. “On qualifying premium video entertainment apps such as Prime Video, Altice One and Canal+, customers have the option to buy or rent movies and TV shows using the payment method tied to their existing video subscription.”

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The inclusion of French-based Canal+ is noteworthy considering Apple was recently fined $1.2 billion by French antitrust officials. Music streaming service Spotify currently has an antitrust lawsuit against Apple pending before the European Union.

The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission under President Trump have ramped up investigations of media/tech companies suspected of violating antitrust guidelines.

Indeed, Netflix reportedly advises iOS users to subscribe to its SVOD platform outside the App Store. Apple, in turn, has cut the fee in half to 15% to some services who members maintain subscriptions through the App Store for more than a year.

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Why Have Netflix, Apple, Google, Facebook and Others Nixed Events? Local Government Asked Them To

With a growing list of media tech companies canceling appearances at the upcoming South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin, Texas, and other public events due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the decision by Netflix, Apple, Google, Intel and Facebook, among others, was apparently inspired by local government.

The County of Santa Clara’s Public Health Department this week updated its recommendations to “protect residents of the county” from the virus, saying local employers should refrain from exposing staff to “close contact with large numbers of people.”

Santa Clara County includes the cities of Cupertino, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose — corporate homes to many of the aforementioned companies. Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft have offices in the county.

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With six new coronavirus cases confirmed in Santa Clara County, bringing to 20 the number of people who have tested positive for the virus in the area, the Public Health Department said it was taking proactive steps to slow the spread of the virus and reduce the number of people infected.

“We understand these recommendations will have a tremendous impact on the lives of people in our community,” the county said in a March 5 statement. “Public Health is making these recommendations in consultation with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on the best information we have at this time, to protect the public’s health. This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of COVID-19 … when such measures can potentially slow the spread of the disease.”

Specifically, the county said companies should suspend nonessential employee travel; minimize the number of employees working within arm’s length of one another, including minimizing or canceling large in-person meetings and conferences.

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It urged employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits, and not require a doctor’s note for employees that are sick as healthcare offices may be busy and unable to provide that documentation right away.

Companies should also consider the use of telecommuting options for appropriate employees, and stagger the start and end times for workers to reduce large numbers of people coming together at the same time.

Earlier this week, Adobe canceled the live portion of the Adobe Summit 2020 confab — originally slated for March 29 to April 2 in Las Vegas — due to the virus. The 2019 event attracted 16,000 attendees and featured presentations by Reese Witherspoon and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, among others. The summit will continue this year as an online only event.

“Over the past few weeks, we have been closely monitoring and evaluating the situation around COVID-19 to ensure we are taking the necessary measures to protect the health and wellbeing of Adobe Summit attendees,” Adobe said in a statement. “As a result, we have made the difficult but important decision to make Adobe Summit 2020 an online event this year and to cancel the live event in Las Vegas.”

Google canceled its Cloud Next event in San Francisco, while Facebook nixed its F8 developers confab in San Jose.

Meanwhile, tickets for the Netflix Is a Joke Festival live stand-up comedy event across 20 venues, April 27 – May 3 in Los Angeles, went on sale March 4.

 

Apple, Netflix, WarnerMedia Pull Out of SXSW Media Festival

Apple (Apple TV+), Netflix and WarnerMedia Entertainment are the latest high-profile media companies to cite the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) for nixing plans to attend the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival, slated for March 13-22 in Austin, Texas.

Founded in 1987, South by Southwest is an annual conglomeration of film, interactive media, music festivals and conferences increasingly attended by major media companies, including studios, to announce products, content, including home entertainment. Organizers say upwards of 200,000 people attended the event in 2019.

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Netflix was set to unveil five films at SXSW, including LA Originals, a documentary exploring the culture and landmarks of the Chicano and street art movement. The SVOD pioneer also had March 15 panel scheduled for “#BlackExcellence,” a family comedy series starring Rashida Jones and based in part on series creator’s Kenya Barris’ life.

Netflix’s decision comes about a month ahead of its branded stand-up comedy “Netflix Is a Joke Festival” in Los Angeles.

Apple was slated to screen upcoming Apple TV+ content, Beastie Boys Story, from director Spike Jonze; Sundance acquisition Boys Slate and series, “Central Park” and “Home.”

The companies join a growing list of media organizations opting not to send staff and talent to public events as a precaution. France’s annual MipTV 2020 confab in Cannes has been cancelled due to a government current order prohibiting large-scale public events.

California Governor Gavin Newsom March 4 declared a state of emergency following the death of an elderly woman near Sacramento. There are now 160 reported coronavirus cases in the U.S., with 11 deaths.

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Austin Public Health, which is testing one possible coronavirus patient, contends the risk to exposure at SXSW and within Austin remains low. Texas has 12 confirmed cases of the virus thus far.

“Today the threat of community spread in Austin remains low, however, we are prepared for it to happen here,” Dr. Mark Escott, interim medical director and health authority for Austin Public Health, said in a press conference.

“Right now, there is no evidence that closing South by Southwest or other activities is going to make this community safer. We are constantly monitoring that situation.”

Escott said Austin Public Health would continue to evaluate situation, adding that any evidence that the community would be safer by closing down public events, “we’ll do that.”

CNN just launched a pop-up podcast, “Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction,” with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, covering the latest news of the COVID-19 virus and what people can do safeguard themselves.

Meanwhile, with increased numbers of events being cancelled due to virus concerns, the airline industry reported it expects to lose $63 billion to $113 billion in revenue from global passenger traffic in 2020.

The news nixed brief Wall Street gains with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 500 points and the S&P down more than 1%.

CEO: Apple TV+ Looking for Original Content, Not Re-Runs

Apple’s foray into subscription streaming video via Apple TV+ is all about original programming — not expensive re-runs. That’s according to CEO Tim Cook in response to a question during the Feb. 26 shareholder meeting about why the tech giant hasn’t gone after well-known catalog fare such as “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory” or “The Office,” among others.

“We love ‘Friends.’ Who doesn’t love ‘Friends’? It’s not what Apple TV+ is about, it’s about original programming,” Cook said. “It doesn’t feel right for Apple to go out and take a rerun. It doesn’t feel like Apple.”

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AT&T’s WarnerMedia Entertainment reportedly paid $85 million per year for five years ($425 million) securing the exclusive streaming rights for “Friends” away from Netflix.

NBCUniversal paid more than $500 million for streaming rights to “The Office,” while Netflix paid about the same for “Seinfeld.”

Apple TV+ launched Nov. 1, 2019 with 24 original series, including Golden Globes winner “The Morning Show” for Jennifer Aniston. Other series include “Home Before Dark,” “Amazing Stories,” “Truth Be Told,” “Trying,” “See,” and “Dickenson,” starring Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee).

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“We’re going to be focused on original programming,” Cook said, adding that Apple TV+ is off to a “rousing start” without elaborating additional details, including subscriber numbers.

Apple giving away a free year of the service with any purchase of an Apple hardware product.

Apple Cites Coronavirus for Revised Fiscal Outlook

Apple has become one of the first tech/media companies to attribute revised fiscal projections due to the ongoing health crisis in China.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Feb. 17 issued a regulatory filing citing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) for slowdown in production of iPhones, Mac computers, iPad and Apple Watch, among other products.

In a statement, Apple said its quarterly guidance issued on Jan. 28 reflected the “best information” available at the time as well as its best estimates about the pace of return to work following the end of the extended Chinese New Year holiday on Feb. 10 — the latter due to government concern about the spread of the respiratory virus that has killed more than 1,000 people.

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“Work is starting to resume around the country, but we are experiencing a slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated,” the company wrote. “As a result, we do not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided for the March quarter.”

Specifically, Apple said its worldwide iPhone supply would be temporarily constrained due to the shutdown of manufacturing partner sites located outside the Hubei province.

“While all of these facilities have reopened — they are ramping up more slowly than we had anticipated,” the company wrote. “The health and well-being of every person who helps make these products possible is our paramount priority, and we are working in close consultation with our suppliers and public health experts as this ramp continues.”

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In addition, Apple said demand for its products in China has been negatively affected as consumers there worry more about the spread and containment of the virus than buying the latest consumer electronics device.

“All of our stores in China and many of our partner stores have been closed,” Apple said. “Additionally, stores that are open have been operating at reduced hours and with very low customer traffic.”

The company said retail operations are “gradually reopening” and would continue to do so as “steadily and safely as we can.”

Apple said its corporate offices and contact centers in China are open, and that online stores have remained open throughout the health epidemic.

 

NAB Show to Bow ‘Streaming Experience’ Content Showcase

The NAB Show is introducing The Streaming Experience, a new content showcase curated by streaming and online video expert Dan Rayburn that will feature more than 50 OTT platforms and streaming devices.

The showcase, which will give NAB Show attendees a first-hand look at the latest streaming video services, according to organizers, will be located in the Central Lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center and is open to all registered attendees during exhibit hours starting April 19.

The NAB Show takes place in Las Vegas April 18-22.

A living-room setting will allow attendees the opportunity to test OTT services side-by-side to compare content, video quality, ad formats, playback features and delivery methods. The Streaming Experience will feature hardware from Amazon, Apple, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, LG, TCL and Samsung. Streaming services on display will include Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, Disney+, Hulu, NBC Sports, Netflix and YouTube TV, among others. New services from HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi may also be showcased, dependent on their launch dates, according to organizers.

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“Streaming is a major focus of the 2020 NAB Show, and the new Streaming Experience is the largest showcase of its kind in the industry,” said NAB EVP of conventions and business operations Chris Brown in a statement. “We are excited for attendees to join their industry peers in this living room environment and experience nearly every live and on-demand streaming service on the market today.”

Additional details of the Streaming Experience, including renderings of the new space, can be found here.

 

SVOD Helps Apple Post Record Q1 Services Revenue of $12.7 Billion

Despite myriad naysayers, the Apple TV+ subscription streaming video service is quietly exceeding expectations and producing on the bottom line, according to CEO Tim Cook.

Speaking Jan. 28 on the Q1 fiscal call, Cook said Apple TV+, which launched on Nov. 1, 2019, has had a “rousing start” with strong consumer response worldwide. Unlike Disney+, which launched on Nov. 12 in six markets, Apple TV+ is available in 100 markets that sell iPhone, iPad, Apple Watches and Mac computers.

The SVOD platform helped Apple’s “services” business segment generate record revenue of $12.7 billion for the first quarter, ended Dec. 28, 2019. That was up 17% compared to services revenue of $10.8 billion in the previous-year period.

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The services category, which also includes iTunes, the App Store, the Mac App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, AppleCare and Apple Arcade, has become a significant revenue driver for the Menlo Park, Calif.-based tech giant.

Apple also had a great quarter overall, posting record revenue of $91.8 billion, up 9% from the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 61% of the quarter’s revenue.

“We are thrilled to report Apple’s highest quarterly revenue ever, fueled by strong demand for our iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models, and all-time records for Services and Wearables,” Cook said.

He said Apple’s install base across all branded devices grew in each of the company’s geographic segments topping 1.5 billion.

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“We see this as a powerful testament to the satisfaction, engagement and loyalty of our customers — and a great driver of our growth across the board,” Cook said.