Even Apple TV+’s Biggest Stars Don’t Know How Their Shows Are Doing

Service stays mum on strategy while greenlighting second seasons of most series

The Morning Show is one of several Apple TV+ original series that will be returning for Season 2. Apple TV+

Apple TV+ made its first ever appearance at the Television Critics Association’s biannual press tour, though unlike most other broadcast, cable and streaming outlets participating in the two-week event, the company declined to put any executives for its new streaming service on stage or make them available for interviews. That decision leaves the thinking behind Apple TV+’s long-term strategy a mystery, following a rocky debut last November.

But journalists aren’t the only ones in the dark about major aspects of the fledgling streaming service. The stars and executive producers of its flagship series The Morning Show, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, said at the TCA winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif. that they are relying on qualitative responses about the first season of the show rather than information from Apple itself to gauge how about many people are streaming the episodes.

“They’re happy—that’s all we know,” said Witherspoon, who stars as newswoman Bradley Jackson in the series and also executive produces. “The only metric I really have of it is from Rotten Tomatoes.”

“That’s the thing with these streaming services,” added Aniston, who plays Alex Levy in the show. “There are no ratings.”

Apple TV+ had given The Morning Show a two-season order, so the series will return despite Season 1’s mixed reviews. (Executive producer and director Mimi Leder, who last year blamed “Apple haters” for negative reviews, said Sunday that the show creators “welcome all input.”)

In what can be interpreted as a sign of confidence in its upcoming programming, Apple has already given the thumbs-up to second seasons for two upcoming originals that haven’t yet premiered.  The service picked up Season 2 of Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, a comedy from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Rob McElhenney, David Hornsby and Megan Ganz, which will debut on Feb. 7. It’s also ordered a second season of the mystery series Home Before Dark, a drama loosely based on the reporting from young journalist Hilde Lysiak that will premiere April 3.

In addition, the company has already picked up five other series for second seasons, including the anthology Little America, which premiered in January, the comedy Dickinson and the dramas See, Servant and For All Mankind.

The technology company’s upcoming slate of shows in 2020 indicates an investment in documentary films and series, including Visible: Out on Television, a five-part docuseries premiering on Feb. 14 that will chronicle the history of LGBTQ representation on television; Home, a home design and innovation documentary series premiering April 17; and Dear…, a 10-episode docuseries examining the biographies of historical figures through letters debuting June 5.

The streaming service will release British comedy Trying on May 1, and the limited series thriller Defending Jacob, starring Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery, on April 24. It’s rounding out its spring content slate with its first adult cartoon series Central Park, an animated musical series from Bob’s Burgers creators Loren Bouchard that stars Kristen Bell and Daveed Diggs that will premiere this summer, Apple said Sunday.

Apple TV+, which costs $5 a month and is available free for a year with the purchase of certain Apple hardware, has been a somewhat unconventional entrant in the streaming space that has long been dominated by companies with deep entertainment experience. The company has declined to build up a collection of library content and instead has budgeted billions toward pursuing A-list talent like Aniston, Witherspoon and Evans for buzzy original projects.


@kelseymsutton kelsey.sutton@adweek.com Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.
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