Commentary

Apple Event Leaves More Questions Than Answers On Streaming Video Play

Last week should have been a banner one for close watchers of the streaming video marketplace. Apple, which has spent around $1 billion on original programming, was -- for the first time -- going to publicly discuss its plans for the streaming video space.

And yet, after the lights in the Steve Jobs Theater on the company’s campus in Cupertino had dimmed, there were far more questions than answers.

To be sure, there was real news. Apple’s upcoming streaming service will be called Apple TV+, and there will be a separate “Channels” service that are intended to compete with Amazon Channels.

Apple TV+ will be available on Apple devices, and on third-party devices from smart TV makers like Samsung, as well as connected TV devices from Roku and Amazon. It will be a subscription product, and it will not have ads.

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And yet, how many shows will it have at launch? How many will be added over time? 

Most importantly: when will the service launch (Apple merely promised more information in the fall), and how much will it cost?

Those pivotal details were missing, making it hard to compare Apple’s upcoming offering with anything that is currently on the market.

Making matters worse, Apple chose to brand Apple TV+ as “Not just another streaming service,” but never explained that reasoning.

By all accounts, Apple TV+ is just another streaming service -- albeit one with some high-profile celebrities attached. Of course, as analysts have noted since the announcement, those celebrities are mercenaries, and all have projects with other media or streaming partners.

While Netflix is paying top dollar to develop exclusive deals with top creatives, Apple is sticking with the non-exclusive playbook.

Still, there were insights to be gleaned from Apple’s event. The company clearly knows that it cannot compete with Netflix in terms of sheer scale. So, to paraphrase Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Apple is trying to become HBO before HBO can become Netflix.

With HBO seeking to broaden its programming and become the centerpiece of WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service, Apple appears to want to take HBO’s prestige throne, with high-quality shows that appeal to the upper middle class consumer that are likely big spenders on Apple products already.

Of course, with so little information out in the open, Apple’s video streaming strategy has plenty of time to evolve.

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