Apple is betting the Shyamalan-aissance will help build their original content kingdom.
In a bid to further their way into the original content game, Apple has announced a partnership with M. Night Shyamalan for a 10-part series. As with several of their other content announcements, they’re keeping the plot details hush-hush. They did share that the half-hour program will be a psychological thriller written by Tony Basgallop (24: Live Another Day).
For most of his career, Shyamalan has been a polarizing filmmaker. There’s a problem with people coming to associate your work primarily with plot twists. If they can guess it, anticipate it, or aren’t impressed by the reveal, well, there isn’t a whole lot of fun left for them in the work. His previous effort for the small screen, Wayward Pines, ran into that issue. But, then, so did Lost. People love to hate a mystery box that doesn’t exceed expectations.
While audiences seem to have appreciated the mystery Shyamalan delivered through the first half of Wayward Pines, the creators seemed to struggle with where to go next. After a year and a half of limbo, Fox officially announced yesterday that they wouldn’t be pursuing a third season. Psychological thrillers are Shyamalan’s bread and butter, though. And, hopefully, he’ll bring some lessons learned from the challenges he encountered with that show.
Television is a fickle medium. It’s hard to even get projects off the ground. For example, Shyamalan had also previously worked with TNT to develop a new Tales from the Crypt series that ultimately didn’t go anywhere. Bringing a show to fruition and delivering even a single season of engaging content is a significant victory. Even when you win, as he did with the first season of Wayward Pines, it’s really hard to sustain an audience.
Based on everything Apple has had to say about their goals, they’re aiming to build their production house success by success. While it would be great if the 10-episode series turned out to be essential pop culture, like Netflix’s Stranger Things, they don’t need to hit a home run. For starters, they just need to get on base.
To that end, Shyamalan isn’t Apple’s only bid for original content. In December, they snagged three executives from Amazon Studios to start building out their own production house. Along the way, they announced they would spend upwards of $1 billion over the course of this year. Last month, they added Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle to their roster of talents.
They have more than a few interesting projects cooking. A billion dollars and high profile names like Chazelle and Shyamalan seem like they’ve got a lot going on. And, undeniably they do. But, their competitors have so much more — more history, more proven properties, and a lot more money.
Netflix reaffirmed their goal of upping their marketing budget to double what Apple is spending on content. Overall, the streaming service standard has committed to spending upwards of $8 billion (not including the $2 billion of marketing!) on bringing content to their platform. They hope to bring over 700 shows and movies to Netflix in 2018.
Just think about that for a second. Like, 700 shows and movies have to add up to at least a thousand hours of content. Netflix is going to produce more content this year than you have time to watch. Which is fine, and really very normal for big-time producers. It does put into perspective how big these streaming services have become. Meanwhile, Amazon Studios is trying to figure out how to spend around $4.5 billion and Hulu spent around $2.5 billion on original content last year.
There’s a lot of money being thrown around out there. Keep in mind, it doesn’t take much to really make an impact. After Netflix pulled the stunt of its Super Bowl LII surprise release of The Cloverfield Paradox, we talked about how Netflix could spend a paltry 1% of that $8 billion on growing original, diverse content. And have a huge impact.
Apple isn’t out of the game because they’ve dedicated a relatively small amount. So long as they pick good projects and find more hits than misses at the outset, they should have no problem battling their way into the market. With their other product lines, they practically have an unlimited supply of cash to throw at their content until it either catches the kind of traction they want or they decide they’d rather invest $1 trillion in a moon-base. It could go either way.