Even if you cut the cord with Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and others all vying for your dollars, it can feel like death by 1,000 video subscriptions.
Tim Cook hopes there’s no business like show business.
And with the backing of Hollywood A-listers Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Steve Carrell, Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa, J.J. Abrams, Sarah Bareilles, Alfre Woodard, Kumail Nanjiani, Jennifer Aniston, even Big Bird–each appeared on the Steve Jobs Theater stage and will do their part to contribute original content – Apple’s CEO on Monday announced Apple TV+, a long-rumored ad-free, on-demand entertainment streaming service.
Apple TV+ will launch in the fall and be part of a revamped Apple TV app.
In broad strokes, the new service would appear to pit Apple’ against the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
Apple didn’t spell out pricing for Apple TV+ but it doesn’t appear to be free. You’ll have the option, apparently, to pay for premium channels you don’t currently subscribe to (with Apple presumably getting an undisclosed cut).
Meantime, the revamped Apple TV app will turn up in May, via the Apple TV set-top box and on your iPhone and iPad. The app will come to Macs in the fall.
And Apple also announced that it will be made available on smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony and Vizio, and even on the boxes that compete with Apple TV hardware, notably Fire TV and Roku.
“We love TV,” Cook said on stage.
Going all in on news
Separately, Apple is also going all in on news. The company announced a beefed-up newspaper and magazine service called Apple News+. It costs $9.99 a month and includes such newspapers as The Wall Street Journal, Toronto Star and Los Angeles Times, along with more than 300 magazines like People, National Geographic, Popular Science, Sports Illustrated, Billboard, Vogue Fortune, New York and The New Yorker.
Content will be curated: It is unknown whether you’ll get all or just some of the content from your favorite digital publications under Apple’s single news subscription.
Apple says it is not charging extra to share the news subscription with members of your family. The first month is free.
The app features animated magazine covers that resemble Live Photos on the iPhone.
And in a not towards privacy, Apple claims advertisers will not be able to track what you are reading.
Will there be bundled pricing?
It’s premature to make the call on whether Apple will have a smash on its hands with either the TV+ or News + offerings, or, given the hype, is headed towards some sort monumental flop.
Cook has long signaled Apple’s increased reliance on the services sector, which in addition to the brand-new streaming services, includes iCloud, Apple Pay, and Apple Music, which has garnered about 50 million subscribers since its debut in June 2015.
Apple’s biggest advantage here would seem to be the Apple brand itself, built around an installed base of loyal customers, who collectively have about 1.4 billion Apple devices out in the wild, most notably, the iPhone.
Most of Apple’s services to date have been closely tied to those Apple products, and if anything, today’s announcements may further cement that symbiotic relationship.
Still unclear is whether Apple will bundle Apple TV+, Apple News+, Apple Music and perhaps some combination of premium TV channels into a single discounted offering?
Another open question: Will Apple give any kind of price break to iPhone owners or people who have other iDevices?
Apple is still looking to services to keep consumers in its ecosystem.
“Apple will need to continue to increase investments in original content and licensing to differentiate itself from competitors. However, it could take advantage of its massive smartphone reach in the US and abroad,” says eMarketer senior Forecasting Analyst Chris Bendtsen.
Indeed, whatever advantage Apple gains through hardware, the Apple TV set-top box, for now, is at the bottom of the U.S. connected TV market — behind Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Chromecast. This year, 25.1 million Americans will use an Apple TV device, or 13.2 percent of connected TV users, eMarketer reports.
In an exclusive USA TODAY/SurveyMonkey Audience online poll of more than 1,030, conducted over two days last week, about a third of consumers indicated that they had seen or heard the news about a new (rumored) video streaming service from Apple. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) said they were either “likely” or “very likely” to subscribe to it if launched, with 31 percent undecided.
Then there’s the matter of subscription fatigue, given that U.S. viewers have more than 300 top video options.
According to a recent Deloitte survey, the average U.S. consumer now subscribes to three streaming video services. Will they go for a fourth? And if not, what will they cut to accommodate Apple?
Meanwhile, 43 percent of consumers in the Deloitte survey subscribe to both streaming and conventional pay TV services.
A key driver, of course, is the kind of content consumers will be exposed to. High quality original content continues to be a dominant factor in streaming growth, with 57 percent of current U.S. streaming households (and, 71 percent of millennials) subscribing to specific original content, Deloitte says.
A credit card and games, too
Apple unveiled a new subscription offering for gamers too. It is called Apple Arcade and will include more than 100 curated titles you can play on your phone, Apple TV, Mac and iPad. If you lack an internet connection you can play offline. The company says parents can manage Screen Time usage in case the kids play games instead of doing their homework. Apple Arcade will be made available in the fall – no pricing has been disclosed yet.
Apple Arcade seems to be Apple’s answer to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, which costs $9.99.
It’s not like gaming is new to Apple. Apple’s App Store platform has nearly 300,000 free and paid games, and Apple claims more than 1 billion of its customers play games.
Apple separately announced a titanium MasterCard titanium credit card called Apple Card, with a Daily Cash feature that adds a 2 percent rebate on purchases made through Apple Pay. The rebate climbs to 3 percent on purchases for Apple’s own products.
There are no annual fees, late fees or international currency exchange fees. Apple claims low-interest rates too, though no specifics on that front have been offered yet. Though there’s no penalty per se, late or missed payments will result in additional interest accumulating toward a customer’s balance.
What’s in your wallet?: Apple wants you to add an Apple Card credit card, coming in summer
The company is partnering with Goldman Sachs on the new card. The card includes a variety of privacy and security features built in, notably that Apple doesn’t know what you bought, where you bought it or how much you paid. And Apple says Goldman Sachs will never share your data to third parties for marketing or advertising purposes.
No card number, security code, expiration date or signature is visible on the card.
The card will come to the Apple Wallet app in the U.S. this summer.
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