Home / Gadgets / Apple’s Gadgets Co-Star in Its New TV Drama – The Wall Street Journal

Apple’s Gadgets Co-Star in Its New TV Drama – The Wall Street Journal

Apple Inc.


AAPL 1.15%

’s flagship television series “The Morning Show” is a glossy, star-studded program designed to draw subscribers for the company’s new streaming service. The show also, it turns out, doubles as an extended commercial for the gadgets that drive Apple’s business.

While

Jennifer Aniston,

Reese Witherspoon

and

Steve Carell

have top billing in the drama about a morning news program gone haywire after an anchor’s sexual misconduct, the iPhones, iPads and Macs in the show might have deserved their own trailer and makeup room given all their time on camera.

Apple products are visible in an average of 32 camera shots per episode, and an Apple logo is visible in roughly one-third of those shots, according to a Wall Street Journal tally from viewing all 10 episodes of the first season. Rival brands are scarce.

“The Morning Show” made its debut last week to mixed critical reviews but very favorable audience reaction, according to the review-aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. It is the flagship series for Apple’s TV+, a $4.99-a-month subscription service designed to help lessen the company’s dependency on its iPhone business at a time of slowing sales. Apple is offering the service free for a year with a purchase of a new iPhone, iPad or Mac.

Hollywood agents, writers and actors have been watching Apple’s shows closely to see how it would handle its first foray into original TV programming. Among their questions: Would the shows be a vehicle to push Apple’s own products?

“The Morning Show” wastes little time giving Apple screen time. The first scene of the first episode opens with the character of executive producer Chip Black, played by Mark Duplass, sprawled on the floor of his office in the dark, feet away from a Mac computer, when the iPhone next to him lights up with an incoming call. About 20 seconds later, Steve Carell’s soon-to-be-disgraced anchor, Mitch Kessler, is awakened by his iPhone. In total, there are 31 shots of Apple devices in Episode 1, including eight with the company’s logo.

Several scenes in ‘The Morning Show’ feature close-ups of iPhones, including one with the Apple News service displayed.

The other shows in the initial batch of nine programs for TV+ aren’t really conducive to product placement. Several are set in times when Apple doesn’t exist, while others are children’s shows or nonfiction programs that couldn’t easily accommodate gadget shots.

Product placement has surged over the past decade as marketers aim to get their brand in front of viewers who increasingly skip commercials and watch shows on demand. Spending on product placement has doubled since 2012 to about $10 billion, according to PQ Media, a media research firm that tracks the industry.

“In a changing world where people watch less traditional television, especially younger audiences, how do you reach them?” said

Patrick Quinn,

president of PQ Media. “One way to do that is to launch your own streaming service and show off your product. Not everyone can do that, but Apple can.”

For a new show with an undefined audience, assigning a value to an episode’s display of iPhones and other Apple items would be difficult, said Mr. Quinn. For a prime-time show on a traditional network, though, it would be worth tens of millions of dollars, he said.

Speakers at WSJ Tech Live discuss the increasing competition for consumers as a growing number of video-streaming services come to market.

Apple has said it doesn’t pay for product placement. People close to “The Morning Show” said producers weren’t under pressure to include Apple products in the shows.

Jarrod Moses,

chief executive of United Entertainment Group, an entertainment and brand consulting firm, said he expected “The Morning Show” to be loaded with Apple products.

“I went into the show thinking that was a given,” he said, adding, “I probably would have been shocked if I saw less.” Mr. Moses, who watched the first three episodes, said Apple’s high visibility in the show “seemed pretty harmonious to the actual set and the characters.”

The iPhone appears so often in “The Morning Show” that it can seem like an appendage. Reese Witherspoon’s character,

Bradley Jackson,

manages to take off her leather jacket in one scene without putting down her iPhone. Another character holds on to her iPhone while getting amorous with a co-worker.

In a scene from Apple’s ‘The Morning Show,’ the office of character Chip Black, played by actor Mark Duplass, features several Apple products. Can you identify them? (Answer below)

Other Apple products that get good screen time include MacBooks and iMacs, iPads, AirPods and the occasional Apple Watch. Even the HomePod speaker, widely seen as a disappointment for Apple, makes cameos as a staple on a producer’s office desk.

In one four-second scene in Episode 2, nine Apple products are shown as two characters walk and talk through the newsroom, according to the Journal count.

Scenes like that might be the result of the show being overzealous in its product placement, said

Patricia Ganguzza,

president of AIM Productions Inc., a product-placement firm that has worked with programs such as NBC’s “Will & Grace.”

“I look at it and say: How brilliant is it for Apple to go into the content business?” said Ms. Ganguzza. “Wouldn’t we rather watch a show with product than watch the commercials?”

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

Does product placement distract you, or do you consider it a given in media today? Why or why not? Join the conversation below.

Of course, many Apple products are very popular—the iPhone has a 35% share of the U.S. smartphone market. Producers have long featured Apple products in television shows and movies. In 2010, ABC’s sitcom “Modern Family” devoted an entire episode to the family’s efforts to get an iPad, which had just hit the market. Apple didn’t pay for the placement but it did donate the device.

“The Morning Show” isn’t an entirely Apple-only world. The 10-plus hours of the first season feature at least one device that wasn’t an iPhone: The estranged father of Ms. Witherspoon’s character uses a flip phone during a call with his daughter.

Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, has a commercial agreement to supply news through Apple services.

(Answer: Three—MacBook, HomePod, iMac)

Actor Mark Duplass, who plays executive producer Chip Black in this scene from ‘The Morning Show,’ talks to his editorial team in a room full of Macs.

John Jurgensen

contributed to this article.

Write to Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com and Tripp Mickle at Tripp.Mickle@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


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