There is Netlflix. There is Amazon Video. There is HBO Now. There is Hulu. There are local players, such as Hotstar in India. And there is Disney+, which will be primed for action by the time the much-awaited Apple TV service goes Live. The much-awaited video streaming service from Apple is now rumored to be primed for a roll-out in March. It may not even be a rollout, but actually a first glimpse at a service that could roll out later this year. No one really known what it’ll be like, whether Apple will even be looking to rival the likes of Netflix while at it, or if you will be able to subscribe to other streaming services through it, but there are enough rumors to suggest that Netflix content will not be a part of whatever is on offer when (if at all) the services becomes available.
After all, isn’t it supposed to be rivaling Netflix?
To be fair, Apple needs this. At a time when the iPhone sales have been significantly slower than expected, the Cupertino based company needs a spot of positive news to take the attention away from the fact that lesser than expected number of people have either bought an iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XS or an iPhone XR, or upgraded from one of their older iPhones to the newer devices. Investment bankers Morgan Stanley has gone on record saying that Apple needs this new addition to the services bundle to again cross the 1 trillion-dollar valuation mark.
It has been reported that Lions Gate’s Starz, CBS which owns Showtime and Viacom are expected to be a part of Apple’s TV services foray.
This has been in the works for a while now—it was reported as far back as August 2017 that Apple had earmarked as much as $1 billion to produce and source original content through the entirety of last year, in order to get the content in place for the big launch. Apple is also believed to have acquired the rights to a new original series starring and co-produced by American actresses Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
Tim Cook, CEO and the Apple Inc. executives trusted with the responsibility for the streaming TV space, have one simple guideline. No sex, no violence, no crime, no jokes about religion, no political leanings, no swearing and simply keep it family friendly, it has been reported.
There is a bit of anxiety about Apple’s potentially strict guidelines for the TV content, which could limit the options for original content. The Wall Street Journal reported late last year that the guidelines were put in place after Cook wasn’t entirely impressed by the violence which was a part of “Vital Signs,” which is a dark, semi-biographical tale of hip-hop artist Dr. Dre. What Cook saw included characters doing drugs, an extended orgy in a mansion and lots of guns. He came away unimpressed. “It’s too violent,” is what Tim Cook reportedly told Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine, after the screening. The way things stand, Apple’s approach is completely different from what Apple’s streaming rivals have been adopting over the years. Netflix, Amazon and HBO have not shied away from using sex, violence and nudity as a part of original content for TV shows and movies. Take for instance, Game of Thrones, the extremely popular TV series, which featured a lot of nudity, sex and violence, over the seasons.
Last October, Netflix earmarked as much as $8 billion for new and original content for their platform.
Apple’s squeaky clean approach is causing a few problems for content creators. In April last year, the showrunner for an original series starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon departed, citing “creative differences” because Apple reportedly wanted the show to be more upbeat. Apple won the rights for this show after a battle with Netflix. The Steven Spielberg produced Amazing Stories reboot is also believed to have had same problems—instead of the dark Black Mirror sort of a tone, Apple wanted it to be more family friendly.
Even though it has been a tough time for the iPhone line-up in stores, the services category has continued to see strong growth. The revenue from the services category was $10.8 billion in revenue for the December quarter. Apple is trying to further accelerate its services business, which currently includes Apple Music, App Store and iCloud, and a video streaming service only seems logical. There are further chances that it could be bundled with subscriptions such as iCloud storage, which further makes subscriptions simpler for users.
With declining cable TV subscriptions in certain parts of the world, as well as the user preference towards more on-demand viewing rather than linear TV has seen a massive shift towards streaming services. Netflix, Hulu Amazon Video got the first wave, while HBO Now followed soon after, to name a few. Disney is set to launch its own streaming service, Disney+.
With the potential clearly visible, Facebook and Twitter are also eyeing the pie. For instance, Facebook has bagged the rights for the Spanish La Liga football league for the next three seasons. The Spanish La Liga confirmed that Facebook will broadcast 380 league matches for the 2018/19 season, for viewers in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Amazon won rights to stream 20 English Premier League matches a season from 2019 for the UK region, to give a variety boost to their Prime Video service well known for TV shows and movies.
While you may agree with Apple’s streaming service stance, or say it is pro-censorship and anti-libertarian, it is true that Apple has a lot more at stake than Netflix or Amazon or HBO. Apple is a consumer electronics company, and wants to sell you an iPhone, an iPad, Mac computing devices and a whole host of services including Apple Music. It risks a lot more, if it alienates users and potential users. If you don’t buy an iPhone because you are angry at Apple for putting a violent show on a steaming service which your 12-year old daughter also accesses, the company has a lot more to lose in the process. At the same time, the rather fresh outlook that Apple has for its streaming service could very well define a unique selling point for its content.
Not everyone agrees though that Apple should launch its own streaming service. Investment bankers JPMorgan shared some advice for Apple earlier this month—that they should gather all the loose change and once that totals up to around $189 billion, they should chuck it in the direction of Netflix and insist that they should feel happy about being taken over. As per research firm Statista, Netflix has a global user base of 130 million users at the end of the year 2018—and most of its growth is now happening outside the US. But we don’t even know yet if Apple even has global ambitions for its TV service offering, at least in the near future.