Could watching someone pitch an app make great TV? Apple Music hopes so
“Planet of the Apps” is what would happen if “Shark Tank,” “The Voice” and “Silicon Valley” had a ménage à trois.
There are roughly 2.2 million apps available for download in the App Store and Apple Music is hoping this new reality series about finding the next great one will have people tuning in.
On “Planet of the Apps,” developers pitch their app ideas — on an escalator! — to a panel of celebrity advisors: actresses and businesswomen Jessica Alba (co-founder of eco-friendly product line Honest Company) and Gwyneth Paltrow (founder of lifestyle and e-commerce website, Goop); singer and businessman will.i.am, and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
Developers who move on to the next round receive mentoring from one of the judges. Participants then try to persuade Lightspeed Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that was first to invest in Snapchat, to invest in them. Apps from developers featured in the series will receive premium placement on the front page of Apple’s App Store.
The 10-episode series will debut on Apple Music at 9 p.m. PT Tuesday — that’s right, in just a few hours, with hardly any notice or fanfare of its arrival. Or, as Paltrow describes it: “Beyonce-style.”
Questions of when Apple would wade into the original programming space and challenge streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon have long followed the company. Apple Music, the tech giant’s $9.99 a month music streaming service, presented an entry point by introducing music-centric video offerings from heavyweights like Taylor Swift and Drake in 2016. The company announced earlier this year its plan to more earnestly join the original programming space to help distinguish Apple Music from rival music streamers like Spotify and Tidal.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, says “Planet of the Apps” is a continuation of what’s come before by being squarely in line with Apple’s DNA, given that the company launched an app store in 2008.
“Who could have imagined the cultural phenomenon that apps have become?” Cue said in a phone interview. “It’s hard to imagine life without them, but the odd truth is that it hasn’t even been nine years since the app store was launched.”
Who could have imagined the cultural phenomenon that apps have become?
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services
The show’s debut comes a day after Apple announced an App Store redesign during a presentation at its annual conference for app makers. Apple aims to direct users toward new apps that may be worth trying or relevant to the day’s watercooler topics. The changes should be welcomed by app creators who’ve grown frustrated with the major challenge of getting noticed. And the show also may help remind Apple users to poke around the App Store.
Apple generated more than $24 billion in sales from the App Store, Apple Music and other services during its last fiscal year. It generally takes a 30% cut of app purchases.
The series hails from veteran TV producer Ben Silverman (“The Office,” “Jane the Virgin”) and producing partner Howard Owens, who are co-chief executives of Propagate, the production company teaming with Apple on the show. The pervasiveness of technology and the sometimes blind ambition of its creators were a perfect combination for TV, Silverman said in a phone interview.
“We felt that the culture of apps was transforming our lives — how we eat, how we think, how we move, and how we listen to music,” Silverman said. “And more and more people are graduating from school or skipping school wanting to go right into the world of technology and app development because of the promise of the gold at the end of the rainbow and the opportunity to be somebody to change the world. And we thought there was a great show to be created in that space.”
To make it more digestible to a mainstream audience, text boxes periodically appear on-screen to define some of the tech and business jargon that gets thrown around. And Silverman knew big celebrity names in the business world were key to bringing credibility to the series.
Paltrow, a friend of Silverman’s, said she agreed to participate because she saw it as a way for Goop to reach a new audience.
“I obviously had some trepidation about going into television,” Paltrow said. “It’s a different relationship to be coming into somebody’s living room every night, but I felt within the context of the world of Apple, it just seemed like it made a lot of sense.”
“It was very overwhelming,” she said of the volume of ideas pitched during the series. “And, of course, I felt nervous about, you know — why am I judging some hard-core engineer? For the sake of the show, I can understand what people are trying to do and trying to achieve. But in the beginning it was a bit scary, to be honest.”
“Of course, I felt nervous about, you know -- why am I judging some hard-core engineer?
Gwyneth Paltrow, a celebrity advisor on “Planet of the Apps”
The first episode will be available for free on iTunes and planetoftheapps.com, with promotion on Apple.com. A new episode will be available exclusively on Apple Music each week on Tuesday evenings. An app for the show itself, which will feature bonus content among other things, will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
“Planet of the Apps” debuts ahead of Apple’s adaptation of James Corden’s popular “Late Late Show” segment “Carpool Karaoke,” which was originally slated to be the company’s first series out of the gate. Apple had announced in February at the Code Media Conference that “Carpool Karaoke: The Series” would debut in April, but it’s now scheduled to debut Aug. 8.
Asked if Apple has a quota or goal it hopes to reach with its original programming, Cue would only say, “We have a goal to hopefully create great shows.”
Times staff writer Paresh Dave contributed to this report.
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.