CUPERTINO, Calif. — A delegation from Los Angeles trekked 300 miles to Apple’s campus armed with questions.
Questions like: How much will viewers be charged for the coming slate of Apple programming? When will the shows be released? How will they be marketed?
There were plenty of famous people onstage during the nearly two-hour presentation streamed live on Monday from the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif., and plenty of skillful corporate stagecraft — but when it was all over, Hollywood’s main questions had gone unanswered.
While entertainment veterans are rooting for the company to succeed in its new venture, they still need a little more convincing before they will endorse the notion that Apple has created “a new service dedicated to the best stories ever told,” as one of its executives, Jamie Erlicht, put it on Monday.
In the first hour of the show, Apple played up its new brand identity as something other than a company that turned out hardware products by unveiling its news and gaming services. It also announced deals it had struck for programming from HBO, CBS, Showtime and Starz, as well as a credit card it had created with Goldman Sachs.
The next act was the charm-and-dazzle portion of the program — Steven Spielberg! Oprah Winfrey! Big Bird! — during which Apple tried to get the word out to its customer base that it had become a major content company to rival Netflix or HBO.
A secondary audience for the star-studded display was the entertainment industry itself, a group that included the producers, actors, executives and agents in the room, as well as their confreres monitoring the event from Los Angeles.
Apple, which will house its original programming and shows from other companies in an app called Apple TV Plus, spent more than $1 billion on entertainment in the last year and a half. That expenditure brought a number of stars to the alien turf of Silicon Valley.
The night before the 10 a.m. presentation, there was a cocktail party — no press invited — for many of the entertainment people now in business with the no-longer-just-a-tech company. The famous among them gathered for a Vanity Fair-style photo session. Art Streiber, a frequent celebrity portraitist for the magazine, shot group pictures in color and black and white. Ms. Winfrey was seated front and center, flanked by Jennifer Aniston and the Apple chief executive Tim Cook.
The majority of the portrait subjects had outfitted themselves in the minimalist style long associated with the brand. The renegades included the “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa, who wore a wide-brimmed hat, and Jada Pinkett Smith, whose yellow skirt popped.
Not long before the Monday showcase, the weekend arrivals were joined by the rest of the Hollywood contingent, who had jetted that morning to Cupertino, a city not known for its five-star accommodations. In flats, heels and black leather sneakers, they tramped up a hill on a cloudy, blustery morning. Youthful, cheerful Apple employees shouted out “Hello!” and “Good morning!”
The agents, producers and executives stepped into the rounded glass space above the theater. It looked like an Apple Store, only grander, with no products on display, but plenty of coffee. “It’s time to begin the descent,” an Apple employee said, gesturing toward a stairwell as showtime approached.
The Los Angeles crowd sat among Apple employees and others in the dark. They took in the information about Apple News Plus and the credit card. Then came the part of the show they had come to see.
Mr. Spielberg, who is rebooting his 1980s-era NBC series “Amazing Stories” for Apple, had not appeared in the group portraits taken the night before, but he was the first member of the Hollywood envoy to take the stage.
“This is my first time at Apple,” he said.
He was followed by J. J. Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Ms. Aniston, Ms. Winfrey, and let’s not forget Big Bird, who was there to promote Apple’s plan to make children’s shows with Sesame Workshop, the maker of “Sesame Street.”
While the presentation was something new for Apple, it was familiar to the audience members from Los Angeles. That’s because what they were seeing was essentially an upfront presentation.
The so-called upfronts are a decades-old convention in the television business. Networks stage them for advertisers in Manhattan at Carnegie Hall, the Beacon Theater, and Radio City Music Hall. Stars take the spotlight to engage in scripted banter. Executives give rah-rah speeches. Skillfully edited clips raise hopes that the new shows will not be stinkers. Musicians and stand-up comics offer breaks in the action. Fall lineups are introduced with much fanfare.
Despite the disruptive effect Apple promises to have on the entertainment industry, the company followed an old script on Monday. Mr. Spielberg talked up “Amazing Stories.” Ms. Witherspoon and Ms. Aniston promoted their drama, “The Morning Show,” and did some patter with their co-star, Steve Carell. The writer, actor, producer and comedian Kumail Nanjiani played up his anthology show about immigrants, “Little America.” The singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, introduced by Mr. Abrams, sat at a keyboard and sang the title theme to their musical series, “Little Voice.”
When Apple’s heads of entertainment, the former Sony studio heads Mr. Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, hit the stage, there was thunderous applause as Hollywood cheered its own. A glimpse of their labors appeared in a one-minute, 43-second sizzle reel with clips from the coming programs. Apple hewed to the old timeline favored by traditional broadcast networks in announcing that the shows were “coming this fall.”
A partial standing ovation greeted the celebrity saved for last: Ms. Winfrey. “There has never been a moment quite like this one,” she said, echoing the hyperbole that had been prevalent. She spoke of two documentaries, one on workplace sexual harassment, the other on mental health, and laid out plans for what sounded like an Apple-enhanced revival of the Oprah Book Club.
Mr. Cook was the show’s closer. He paced before a black-and-white group portrait shot by Mr. Streiber the night before. It was projected behind him, the size of a mural. “They’ve impacted our culture, our society,” Mr. Cook said of its subjects, whom he praised as “these amazingly passionate and award-winning artists.”
The lights went up and the members of the Hollywood group went out. Celebrities and sizzle reels were nothing new to them, so they were buzzing more about the new credit card than anything else. Made of titanium, with rounded edges and no pesky numbers to mar its face, it is likely to be a Beverly Hills status object. They also went on about the card because the event had not laid to rest their concerns about marketing, premiere dates and the cost of the streaming service to consumers.
It was also not lost on them that, despite the impressive celebrity cavalcade, many of the stars on display were not exclusive to Apple. Mr. Spielberg has his own production company and makes deals freely. Ms. Witherspoon has shows with HBO and Hulu. Even Big Bird has ties to PBS and HBO.
While skeptical, however, Hollywood is rooting for Apple. In addition to assuming the role of Medici-like patron, it is a viable competitor to Netflix, which can only be good for business. As Ms. Winfrey had put it, speaking of the worldwide reach of Apple’s devices, “They’re in a billion pockets, y’all. A billion pockets.”
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