Purchasers of Apple hardware probably have Ted Lasso to thank for having free access to Apple TV Plus for just three months as opposed to a full year, the promotion that was offered to purchasers of new Apple gadgets for streaming service’s first 20 months on the market.
Having a certifiable hit means Apple is giving away its $4.99-a-month SVOD service less and less these days.
The streaming service has struggled with a deficit of programming, a problem compounded by pandemic-related production delays. Ted Lasso marks the service’s first hit giving Apple TV Plus traction in an increasingly competitive market.
The hotly anticipated second season of the series, born from NBC Sports promos for Premier League soccer in 2013, will debut on July 23. Despite AFC Richmond suffering a big season finale loss, the Diamond Dogs appear full of life in the season two trailer, even after being relegated out of the Premier League.
As Apple’s biggest hit, there's plenty of pressure on series creators Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly to make season two just as good as the first. But Hunt, who plays loyal sidekick to Sudeikis’ Lasso as the laconic Coach Beard, says he’s not letting it get to him.
“We had season two mostly written before season one came out,” Hunt said during a recent virtual press junket for his show. “When season one started to get some good reviews, it was a load off because it gave us a little more ammunition to feel confident in the things that we were doing and the way that we were doing this show. While it was really great that season one was so well received, we weren’t putting pressure on ourselves to get that kind of response. So, if we want to replicate that process, we have to continue not worrying about what the response is going to be and just make the story that we like and hope that people will go along for the ride.”
Led by an inherently optimistic and hopeful character, Ted Lasso was a much needed feel-good series when it launched in August 2020—six months into the pandemic and three months before the presidential election. But Hunt says that the pandemic didn’t help the series succeed.
“The pandemic doesn't help anything,” Hunt said. “I wish the pandemic had never happened. It’s the worst. But the pandemic did happen, and we came out during it. That's just how it went. But I'm glad that we were a source of at least distraction for people. People have talked about this show being a positive, and I do love hearing that, but I always remind myself that it’s not a sunshine show. It’s not a Teletubbies or Barney—maybe we are somewhere in-between the two—but people go through things in the show. It’s a positive show because of where people end up, not because of any continuum of denial of the difficulties of life.”
It’s that fine line of being a funny and transformative that has helped Ted Lasso become a success. The endearing series starring Sudeikis as a clueless American football coach who is hired to be the manager of a struggling Premier League soccer club, despite knowing nothing about soccer, has gobbled a slew of awards including a Golden Globe and SAG trophies for Sudeikis.
In addition, the 10-episode series triumphed at the 2021 Critics Choice Awards, sweeping all categories it was nominated for including Best Comedy Series, Best Actor in a Comedy Series for Jason Sudeikis, and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Hannah Waddingham. Most recently the 30 minute, 10 episode series won a Peabody.
Apple hasn’t released any viewership metrics for Ted Lasso. Heck, the tech giant won’t release numbers for Apple TV Plus, merely noting that its “services” business—a sector that includes everything from Apple Arcade to Apple Music to TV Plus—had 660 million subscribers at the end of Q1.
We do know it’s going better for Apple TV Plus, based partly on the company’s decision to trim the promotion it offers Apple gadget buyers to just three months, effective July 1. And we do know, based on the presence of Ted Lasso—both in Apple TV Plus marketing and the social media zeitgeist—that this show is working.
“All the discourse had become a bit toxic (in the world when the show came out)” Hunt said. “To be reminded that it’s actually possible to be consistently good and to take your time doing it was a heartening bit of information for people to be reminded of.”
Apple has already renewed Ted Lasso for a third season, which is rumored to be its last.
“It’s true that we always pictured a three season arc, and we know where these characters are going by the end of that season,” Hunt said. “But when we had that idea, however many years ago, we were not calculating the response the show would get. So, our determination to make it only three seasons might be challenged.”
With Foundation—the adaptation of the classic Isaac Asimov books—coming in September and the Simon Kinberg-produced Invasion arriving October 22, it’s possible that Apple won’t push for a fourth season of Ted Lasso. Either way, Hunt isn't worried about it.
“All we can control is making the best show we can,” he said. “Records are made to be broken. Babe Ruth had the most home runs until Hank Aaron until Barry Bonds, etc. So, if we are Apple’s biggest hit now, that's just now. They'll have a bigger one later and then a bigger one after that. So, we are not measuring ourselves against other shows, we’re just happy that that we're getting the response we are.”
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