As Apple looks to expand its range of services, the company is expected to launch a new TV streaming service later this year. Hardly a surprise, Apple in June of 2017 hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg — two former Sony executives — to spearhead the company’s foray into the world of original programming. Armed with a reported $1 billion budget, Apple over the last 18 months or so has inked a number of high-profile deals with acclaimed content creators, including one with La La Land and Whiplash creator Damien Chazelle.
As it stands now, Apple reportedly has upwards of 25 new original programs waiting in the wings. What remains unclear, though, is whether or not Apple’s TV strategy will focus exclusively on original content or if the company plans to license popular media content as well. Suffice it to say, if Apple wants a streaming service than can stand on its own two feet, it will need a lot more than a stable of original content in order to make a dent in the marketplace.
For as much as Netflix is deservedly lauded for its growing and seemingly endless library of original content, the most-watched programs on the platform tend to be older content licensed from third-parties, with Friends and The Office being two prominent examples. In other words, fresh original content is great, but many streaming service subscribers are just as interested in watching familiar shows that first aired on network TV or cable.
As an illustrative example, take a look at the most viewed Netflix shows below. You have to get all the way down to the 14th spot before you hit a Netflix original.
If Apple truly wants to make a streaming service that has an impact on the media landscape, it will have to create a service that can breathe on its own, outside of the Apple Music umbrella. And to make that a reality, the company will have to have a formidable library of licensed content for viewers to enjoy.
Now is it possible Apple will simply release its slew of originals as a nice perk for Apple Music subscribers? That could very well be the case, but that strategy almost seems short-sighted and arguably won’t do much to materially increase the base of Apple Music users.
Interestingly, there have been rumors that Apple will simply give away its original programming for free via a pre-installed app on iOS devices while also giving users the ability to sign up for premium content from the likes of HBO and Showtime. While this would be nice, it seems doubtful that giving away programming for free would help boost device sales.
Without a content library of licensed content — which we should note can be found on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon — it’s hard to imagine Apple’s burgeoning TV initiative picking up steam in a meaningful way.