The 2022 Oscars weren't just about WIll Smith whacking Chris Rock, although it certainly seems that way on social media right now. In between the usual luvvies telling each other how great they were, Apple TV+ made history: its film, CODA, was the first streaming original to win an Oscar.
I imagine Netflix feels rather like Chris Rock's cheek right now. Or like I did this morning when it sent the email informing me that my Netflix sub was going up in price again.
Why CODA deserved to win, and why Apple's Oscar matters
CODA is a genuinely great film, with a 95% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 93% audience rating. It's the first film starring a predominantly Deaf cast to pick up the Best Picture Oscar, and Troy Kotsur is the first Deaf male actor to win an Oscar for best supporting actor. Writer-director Siân Heder completed the awards hat-trick with an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.
These aren't the only awards the film has picked up, but they're by far the most important in terms of awareness and impact. And it's not the only Apple Original to get a gong: Ted Lasso got an Emmy late last year.
The awards are effectively a validation of Apple's streaming strategy, which is to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. Browsing it and Netflix lately feels a bit like the difference between shopping in Waitrose and in Home Bargains, or if you're in the US, between Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. That's not to say that Home Bargains or Trader Joe's are bad places. But they're targeted to very different markets.
And that's interesting, because with streaming prices going up I think more of us are going to reach the point where we simply can't keep on with so many streaming subs: if my eldest hadn't recently and annoyingly fallen in love with multiple Marvel shows, my Disney+ subscription would have joined Now TV in the don't need/can't afford pile this month. And these days I'm only really hanging onto Netflix for the final season of Better Call Saul, which starts in a few weeks time: I'm very wary of getting into any other Netflix Original series because I expect it to be cancelled as Netflix prioritises new sign-ups over keeping existing customers happy.
That means Apple's awards could be more than just recognition of good content. They could affect which streaming service the talent wants to go to in the future. If you're a film-maker, a show runner or a well known actor, those Oscars are going to make any offer from Apple considerably more tempting.