At this point, details about Apple’s still-to-come original video content offering remain few and far between, but we at least learned this week the company appears to be leaning toward… just giving the stuff away for free. (To Apple device owners, of course.) As of last month, the $1 billion Apple has spent so far on building out a stable of programming has resulted in about 24 shows in some stage of production and development, all of which are reportedly steering clear of excessive blood, gore, sex and violence. The thing is, though, in a world that’s getting increasingly flooded with new streaming video subscription packages from content companies racing to decouple themselves from legacy distribution channels, it’s actually worth taking a moment to appreciate Apple’s move here.
At some point, all of our personal budgets are going to be tapped out when it comes to the number of subscriptions we’ll accept paying for. Apple, which is venturing for the first time into an area way outside its set of core competencies, wisely decided to not force you to make that calculation when it comes to whatever its experiment in this area eventually produces.
Because the thing is, it’s not just streaming video subscriptions you have to think about here. Average families also subscribe to, along with something like Netflix and maybe HBO, a normal cable package; maybe a newspaper or a magazine or two; gym membership; a meal kit service; and who knows what else. Original video content providers that are especially late to the game — like Apple — need to recognize that the “must-haves” in the minds of consumers are already set. Netflix, for example, is likely to be a must-have, or one of them, while other streaming services are more likely to be seen as complementary, interchangeable add-ons. But here, though, we have a free service on the way from Apple, which of course is also playing a different game than the competition. Netflix, by comparison, cares about roping in as many paying subscribers as possible, while Apple is trying to sell expensive gadgets.
Per CNBC: “Apple is preparing a new digital video service that will marry original content and subscription services from legacy media companies, according to people familiar with the matter. Owners of Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV will find the still-in-the-works service in the pre-installed ‘TV’ application, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details of the project are private.
“The product will include Apple-owned content, which will be free to Apple device owners, and subscription ‘channels,’ which will allow customers to sign up for online-only services, such as those from HBO and Starz.”
Edmund Lee of The New York Times tweeted about this very thing earlier this week:
The mad dash for subscription-based revenue will force papers (NYT, LAT, WaPo, etc) to compete against magazines (Wired, New Yorker, NYMag, etc) against music services (Apple, Spotify) against streaming video (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, YT, Disneyflix, AT&T)…
— Edmund Lee (@edmundlee) October 10, 2018
Meanwhile, new players keep lining up to take a shot at this. We also learned this week from CNN that ATT-owned WarnerMedia is planning to drop a new streaming service on us sometime in the latter part of 2019.
From an Ars Technica report: “The organization (formerly Time Warner) has several TV-content networks under its umbrella, including HBO, Turner, and Warner Bros. Turner’s assets include CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, and others. Warner Bros. produces series such as The Big Bang Theory, The Voice, and The Bachelor for distribution on other networks, as well as feature films like Crazy Rich Asians, Wonder Woman, Blade Runner 2049, Ready Player One, and Dunkirk. Warner Bros. also owns DC Comics. And of course HBO produces and distributes original series like Game of Thrones, Sex and the City, Westworld, and Silicon Valley, among others, as well as documentaries and other films and specials.”
Somebody put the question directly to WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey during the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. How many streaming services will the average person pay for? Stankey’s answer gives you more of the dynamic at play here: “I can probably guess the number isn’t ten. I can guess the number probably isn’t two. What I do know, is that we better be at that table.”