The Only Surprise About Plepler’s New Hit Show

Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images
Julia Alexander
August 2, 2022

The Apple TV+ miniseries Black Bird is, at first glance, precisely the type of prestige streaming show that should have broken out from the get-go. The Mindhunter-like crime drama hails from acclaimed author Dennis Lehane and stars a hulked-out Taron Egerton, Paul Walter Hauser, and Ray Liotta in his last project before he tragically died earlier this year. Perhaps most notably, the series is executive produced by Richard Plepler, the legendary former HBO chief who launched Game of Thrones, among so many other genre-defining hits. That’s not a bad checklist.

There’s also a very good chance that, up until recently, or even just now, you didn’t know anything about Black Bird. Apple dropped the first two episodes on July 8, then moved to a weekly roll out. The finale drops this Friday, and while demand for the show has grown steadily, it didn’t really hit outstanding levels (2.7 percent of shows reach this tier) until July 22 globally and July 25 in the U.S., according to Parrot Analytics, where I work as director of strategy. Now, as buzz builds ahead of the finale, Black Bird is picking up speed and seemingly finding its audience. It’s the fourth most in-demand show on Apple TV+ right now, according to Parrot data. (Parrot Analytics combines consumption data with research, social media, and social video activity to determine cross platform demand for content in order to determine which series are most likely to drive subscription growth or retention.)

Anecdotally, as someone who talks to a lot of executives in the industry, conversations about Black Bird all go a similar way. First, they agree, it’s great. Next comes the shared observation that they hadn’t known anything about the show at all. And finally, their confession: Did you know this is from Plepler’s company? Speaking for myself, I had no idea Black Bird was an Eden Productions project until I searched for more information about the show on IMDB. Indeed, you won’t find any reference to Plepler’s name in any of the marketing materials for Black Bird. There’s just a small note in an official post about the show on Apple’s P.R. site. While Egerton has stopped at some of the late night and morning shows to talk about the series, there hasn’t been what I’d call a major publicity push. Maybe it’s because Apple is used to a keynote presentation creating all the press the company needs—just wait until the next iPhone announcement likely happening this September—but entertainment marketing is different from tech product marketing.