Next week, Apple will hold a special media event in California where the company is expected to, at long last, unveil its brand new TV service. The event should be particularly interesting given that we’ve seen all sorts of information, at often times conflicting, regarding Apple’s plans in the media space.
What we do know is that Apple has been investing a lot of money into developing original TV programming, but what remains unclear is how Apple plans to make said content available. Will it be free to all iOS users? Or, perhaps, will it be available as part of a broad and all-encompassing plan that includes the company’s rumored digital publication subscription service? At the core, though, Apple’s overarching plans in the TV space remain a bit hazy.
Shedding a bit more light on the new service — with some sketchy rumors claiming it will be called Front Row — Peter Kafka of Recode relays that Apple’s TV ambitions will not currently entail taking on industry heavyweights like Netflix and Hulu.
“Instead,” Kafka writes, “Apple’s main focus — at least for now — will be helping other people sell streaming video subscriptions, and taking a cut of the transaction. Apple may also sell its own shows, at least as part of a bundle of other services. But for now, Apple’s original shows and movies should be considered very expensive giveaways, not the core product.”
One of the more intriguing strategies we may see from Apple involves offering users the ability to sign up for a bundle of premium channels at a discount. Imagine, for example, being able to sign up for a HBO and Showtime bundle at a cost that is less than what one would pay signing up for them individually. It’s a novel strategy, but it’s worth noting that Netflix recently indicated it won’t be part of Apple’s TV initiative.
Still, such a service has the potential to be a huge game-changer, especially when we take the massive iOS user base into account. In effect, Apple would be the gatekeeper for all subscription services. Users could simply pay Apple a subscription fee for access to all the other subscription services. Personally, for example, I’ve never been a Starz subscriber; but if I could get a Stars/Showtime/HBO bundle at a discount, that all of a sudden becomes an attractive proposition.
All that said, it’s probably wise for Apple not to take on Netflix head-on at this point. After all, who would pay a monthly subscription fee for a TV service with just about two dozen offerings to choose from. Truth be told, if Apple really wants to compete with Netflix — and at this point there’s no indication that this is the company’s strategy — it would have to strike licensing deals with a multitude of third-party content creators. Recall, some of Netflix’s most popular shows like The Office and Friends are not Netflix originals.