Is the Streaming World Too Crowded for Apple TV+?
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go, CraveTV, and now…Apple? The streaming world is pretty crowded, but Apple is planning on not only joining the race, but possibly out-funding their competitors. Is this good for customers, though?
Last Monday, Apple announced, among other new services, that they will be releasing a streaming service to compete with services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, named Apple TV+. The service will be available on Apple’s new and improved Apple TV app, which will be released in May. Though the service will be released this coming Fall, Apple TV users can us the newly upgraded Apple TV app to entertain themselves with their regular streaming services. The app also includes an iTunes-like experience allowing them to rent or buy movies, and the ability to integrate any existing cable TV subscription they may have, providing live TV.
Apple TV+ is where things start to get a little shaky for customers. The service itself will undoubtedly be smooth and intuitive, giving customers nothing to complain about. The issue that arises comes from the market Apple is jumping in to.
Last October, an online-networking company, Sandvine, published a ‘Phenomena Report’, detailing unique and pertinent internet traffic information gathered by their research teams. In this report, Sandvine highlighted the increased use of internet torrents, which are popular methods of distributing files over the internet. It is commonly used to disperse illegal copies of movies, television shows, music, and so on. After a trend of decline in previous years, internet torrenting rose by 32%. While they had no solid conclusions as to why, Sandvine’s VP of marketing Cam Cullen, speculated that it could very well be due to the growth of streaming services. With each service having its own exclusive shows and movies, a customer either has to spend an exuberant amount of money on subscription fees, or pick a single service and try to forget the others they are missing.
The technology giant is not going into the field blind though. Recently, Apple reached a trillion dollar valuation with potential to go higher, and has decided to show off the power that kind of money comes with. In the Fall, when Apple TV+ begins streaming, the company will already have dozens of Apple exclusives, both shows and movies, with names like Oprah, Jason Momoa, Chris Evans, Jennifer Anniston, Aaron Paul, and more. Apple has garnished its service with a couple blocks of the Hollywood Walk of Fame all before the service has made any money.
This is presumably all in an attempt to make up for lost time though, as Apple is more than a little late to the trend. While Netflix is ubiquitous now, it began sharing movies and television as a mail-order service back in 1997 and began streaming online over a decade ago in 2008. Hulu and Sony Crackle both began in 2007, and HBO Go is a year short of having run for a decade. Even Amazon Prime began in 2006, back when the company had a measly $15 billion valuation (compared to the $882 billion currently). The only other notable company looking to begin an online streaming service is Disney – but Disney is already well known in the entertainment world.
The issue that arises from Apple’s lack of time spent in the field is the same reason why you may have been surprised to hear about the ages of all the current streaming companies. To cultivate a library of content, and to create original content that viewers will enjoy, takes a lot of trial and error. For every Stranger Things and The Man in the High Castle, there are dozens of series that last a single season before they are cut due to low viewership. While Apple is able to fund dozens of original shows and movies for Apple TV+, the drawback is that there may only be a handful of good shows and movies worth watching. Subscribers will have to sift through the content to find something they enjoy, rather than being drawn to the series Netflix and Amazon Prime capitalize on.
All this being said, Apple TV+’s release brings a possible silver lining with it. Back in January, Netflix raised the subscription prices for its service, and last year Amazon announced an increase in the cost for a Prime membership (which, albeit, includes other services). While Amazon’s price increase stems from increased costs for their free, two day shipping, Netflix’s increase stems from their possible $15 billion budget spent on creating original content. With another major competitor in the field, competition-driven pricing may force Netflix, and possibly other services, to trim the excess in their production in order to lower subscription fees again.
On top of that, there is the simple fact that there will be more programming for viewers to watch. Fans of Netflix’s Black Mirror and Amazon Prime’s Electric Dreams will soon have Steven Speilberg’s Amazing Stories to appease their sci-fi/horror anthology appetite. Technologically-inclined parents will be able to bond with their kids through Sesame-Workshop’s Helpsters, a show designed to teach children to solve problems through coding. Fans of Jason Momoa will have more Jason Momoa. Despite causing an increase in internet piracy, more original content means more selection for customers and fans of a genre to enjoy.
With Fall just shy of six months away, there is plenty of time for Apple TV+ to make a spot for itself in the market. With their production costs at a surprisingly low $2 billion, odds are high that there are plans to produce more original content, or to buy the rights to hundreds of pre-existing movies and shows – many of which are already distributed by iTunes. Thoughts are mixed when it comes to the question of if Apple will be competition to Netflix, but six months is plenty of time for Apple TV+ to get so big there is no competition.