25 June 2018

Macworld: “Apple TV: How Apple will roll out its new TV service”

The cost for all of this? It’s going to be $7.99 per month, the same as Netflix’s basic plan, but Apple’s plan will let all members of a family watch in 4K HDR. Apple’s not spending more than a billion dollars on programming just to roll this service into Apple Music. If you want to watch, you’ll need to pay. But if you’re a paying Apple Music subscriber, good news—Apple will also offer a Music & TV bundle that will save you a few bucks a month.

Oh, and where will Apple roll out this service? Everywhere. As many countries as possible. I’m going to assume that Apple is buying worldwide rights for every single series it’s commissioning, which will allow it to enter markets rapidly rather than wait around to construct custom streaming services in every single country. The clue here to Apple’s ambitions is that the company hired a BBC executive as the head of European video. Yeah, Apple’s ambitions are global.

Jason Snell

Clearly, ‘everywhere’ has a different meaning in Apple’s world. When I read ‘everywhere’, I expect a Netflix-like service available on nearly every device under the sun: apps for mobile devices, Windows and Mac desktops, and most smart TVs, Chromecast support for less smart TVs, even streaming from their website. For Apple’s fanatical fan base though, ‘everywhere’ means just Apple devices – and that’s a really poor solution for a TV streaming service that aims to go ‘global’.

Comparing this hypothetical scenario with Apple Music, it was at least introduced to Android smartphones, and is available on Windows through iTunes – and I suppose I should mention the HomePod too. This covers a wide variety of devices and use cases, since playing music doesn’t demand full attention from the user – you can easily stream from your smartphone in the background while cooking or doing chores, on the commute to work, even at the office to drown out background noise. TV is a different matter entirely: it requires both visual and audio focus and I assume most people prefer a larger screen for watching movies and series – although I see more and more people on the subway watching YouTube on their smartphones. As a side note, it would certainly be interesting to know which percentage of users subscribe (or regularly use Music) from non-Apple devices, though I suspect the numbers are fairly low.

If Netflix taught us anything, is that success in the content business depends on strong distribution. Some people may think the Apple ecosystem is enough to provide a large subscriber base for Apple TV, but I disagree. It’s heavily skewed towards iPhones, the smallest screens in the lineup despite their constant growth over the years. The (hardware) Apple TV is all but nonexistent outside the US, and even there its price severely limits its appeal compared to the other options on the market. To me, an Apple TV service without support for third-party devices (preferably via apps, not some hard-coded tvOS embedded on specific displays), and without a comprehensive back catalogue, is a complete non-starter.

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