Jon Stewart's show on Apple is ending because of disagreements about China and AI

ByDavid Goldman, CNNWire
Saturday, October 21, 2023
Jon Stewart's show on Apple ending over disagreements about China
"The Problem with Jon Stewart" will not come back to Apple TV+ for a third season, bringing a surprise and sudden end to the increasingly popular show led by the former "Daily Show" host.

"The Problem with Jon Stewart" will not come back to Apple TV+ for a third season, bringing a surprise and sudden end to the increasingly popular show led by the former "Daily Show" host.

Stewart informed staff Thursday that he and Apple executives agreed to part ways, according to multiple show staff members with whom Stewart discussed the matter. He told staff that the company had concerns about the subject matter Stewart planned for three shows during the upcoming season. Those topics included China, Israel and artificial intelligence.

Although Apple gave Stewart creative control over the show, he grew increasingly frustrated that the company was pushing back on the show's guest list and show subjects, he told staff.

The New York Times first reported the news of the show's cancellation. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

China worries

China represents nearly a fifth of Apple's sales and is the company's fastest-growing region by far. Apple's sales in China increased 8% between April and June (the most recent quarter for which Apple has reported its financial statement), while sales fell 6% in the Americas region during that same period.

But weakness in the Chinese economy and yuan have hurt China's sales over time. Sales in that region fell 2% between October 2022 and June 2023. Sales for the iPhone 15 are down 4.5% in China compared to iPhone 14 sales in the first two weeks after its launch, according to Counterpoint Research.

Smartphone competition is fierce in China, particularly after the release of Huawei's new Mate 60 smartphone line. The phone features a chipset so surprisingly powerful that the US government is investigating how China got its hands on the breakthrough technology. And a nationalist attitude during a period of rising tensions with the West has many would-be Apple buyers in China searching for Chinese-made tech instead, according to Counterpoint.

China's economic growth is nothing to sneeze at - gross domestic product expanded 4.9% in the third quarter, numbers that would make any other developed nation jealous. And it was led by an encouraging bounceback in consumer spending.

But China's housing market is in deep trouble, hurting the country's economic recovery from the pandemic. Although near-5% growth is strong, it isn't really all that robust by Chinese standards.

CEO Tim Cook made a surprise visit to China last week to drum up sales for Apple's products and government support for the company's manufacturing operations in the country. So a potentially critical look at China on Stewart's show, streamed by Apple, may not have sat well with the consumers and officials Cook is hoping will help boost Apple's bottom line in the region.

Increasing popularity and an abrupt end

"The Problem with Jon Stewart" streamed its first episode in September 2021. It wasn't an instant hit, which was unfamiliar territory for the popular comedian, who stepped away from the "Daily Show" in 2015.

Early reviews of the show were mixed, with some critics saying Stewart was doing an angrier, less funny version of "Daily Show" alum John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" show, which airs on rival HBO, owned by CNN's parent company Warner Bros. Discovery. Some critics found Stewart's early guests boring, including former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and SEC Chair Gary Gensler.

But in its most recent season, Stewart started capturing more attention for his show, particularly in clips online, some of which went viral. Stewart's biting interview with Oklahoma State Senator Nathan Dahm about gun violence got tens of millions of views on social media and gained significant mainstream media attention.

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