Apple the distributor. Apple the bundler. Apple the affinity club marketer. Those are some new roles that we’re likely to see Monday at the company’s “It’s show time” event in Cupertino.
The big show will be mainly about the little box: TV. If reports are accurate, Apple will not be announcing a new service to rival Netflix as has been long speculated. Rather, it will announce a new TV storefront where Apple device owners can buy bundles of video subscriptions from other producers and distributors. For instance, you may be able to buy a bundle of Showtime, HBO, and Starz for a better price than buying each service separately, reports Recode’s Peter Kafka. Netflix will not be on the menu, however.
If this sounds familiar it’s because Apple already sells TV subscriptions in its app store, including the Amazon Prime video app. And its TV app already sets up a sort of programming guide of content you get from your cable and streaming video subscriptions. In fact, the TV app might be expanded to act as the primary control hub for the bundled content. What’s different is that in the new arrangement Apple will host the video streams (and collect the valuable usage data), instead of sending users off to the third-party site to watch video.
Apple has been developing its own video content for well over a year–it’s said to have about 30 shows in development now–which has further stirred up speculation that Apple was preparing to offer a subscription video service to compete directly with Netflix. Recode reports that instead Apple may give away its homegrown shows for free to sweeten the deal on the third-party subscription bundles.
Apple’s video offering may look something like that of Amazon Prime video—with an important difference. Amazon offers both its own TV shows and movies and sells subscriptions to other services like MLB.tv and Starz. But it also licenses large catalogs of movie and TV content from rights holders like Disney and Warner Brothers. Apple, if the reports are correct, will not be licensing those catalogs.
A Netflix for News
Part of Monday’s parade of bundles will be a new newspaper and magazine subscription service built atop Texture, which Apple acquired in 2018. Texture itself had agreements with more than 200 magazines at the time of its purchase. Apple has reportedly been recruiting more magazines, and, importantly, more news services to contribute content. Vox Media and the Wall Street Journal have reportedly signed on. But neither The New York Times nor the Washington Post will be part of the service, an omission that could be a dealbreaker for some.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple has partnered with Goldman Sachs to offer a credit card. The card will be offered to iPhone users and will be integrated with the Wallet app on the phones. Why would Apple talk about this at a product event? It’s possible that Apple might tie the new card–or more specifically its rewards–in with its burgeoning services business in some way. For instance, Apple might offer people a discount on certain Apple services, which could include TV services, if they use the card to pay for them.
I’ve heard a number of Apple watchers say that Apple intends to form bundles out of all the above service options, in addition to other services like its cloud services and its Apple Music service. With the credit card, Apple may soon start to look like a giant affinity program for iPhone users.
Apple has been dropping signals this week that the two-hour presentation will be dominated by the new video storefront. The company made several announcements this week, including a new iPad mini (see Harry’s review here), a newly upgraded iMac, and new AirPods. Making those announcements this week may relieve the company from devoting stage time to them on Monday.
I’ll be on hand at the event Monday pumping out the news and analysis starting at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.