Entertainment Television

Thursday 22 August 2019

Can Apple change the face of screening?

With streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon already dominating the market, just what can Apple TV+ offer customers?

Big hitters: The great and good of Hollywood out in support of the new streaming service. Photo: PA
Big hitters: The great and good of Hollywood out in support of the new streaming service. Photo: PA
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Apple's star-studded announcement of its forthcoming foray into the entertainment industry, specifically the streaming market, was made with great fanfare in California on Monday, but what does it mean for potential subscribers?

With the behemoths that are Netflix and Amazon Prime Video already dominating the market, having honed their offerings over more than a decade, and Disney and Warner Bros snapping at their heels with their own respective services, the market is beginning to look a little crowded. This can only be a good thing for consumers.

It's not surprising they want a slice of the streaming pie. Apple has already built a 150 million-strong base of subscribers to music streaming service Apple Music, so video streaming via the new service, Apple TV+, is the next logical step. The world's second most valuable technology company has also experienced declining iPhone sales of late and Netflix has proven the highly lucrative potential of video streaming.

Last year the company boasted revenue of €16bn, and almost doubled its operating profit to $1.6bn from the previous year. It also finished 2018 with 139 million paying memberships, up 29 million from the start of the year.

Consumers cannot get enough: in the UK last year streaming overtook traditional pay TV services for the first time ever as the 16- to 34-year-old demographic in particular migrates online to Netflix, Amazon, and NOW TV. So, what will Apple TV+ bring to the market? Here's what we know so far...

When will it be released?

Apple said it will be available in the autumn but an exact date has not yet been announced. It is unclear whether it will launch solely in the US initially or roll out domestically and internationally simultaneously.

Will it be available in Ireland?

Apple said it will be available in more than 100 countries and Ireland is expected to be among those in the initial launch list.

What content will be available on Apple TV+?

Netflix consistently produces quality original content whether it's a TV series like House of Cards or an Oscar-winning film like Roma. Its documentary offering is also strong from true crime series like Making a Murderer to the award-winning Icarus. Amazon Prime, meanwhile, boasts The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, and Amazon Studio films of the calibre of Manchester by the Sea among their original productions.

The content (albeit fleeting snippets) showcased at the Apple launch has the potential to compete with the best Netflix and Amazon have to offer. Several major Hollywood stars, including producer/director Stephen Spielberg and chat show queen Oprah Winfrey, are on board with original, exclusive content.

Winfrey is collaborating with Apple on two documentaries; Toxic Labor tackles the issue of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace while the second, as yet unnamed, project will focus on mental health and "how the scourge of depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, trauma and loss is devastating lives daily across the globe".

Actress and producer Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston will also feature on Apple TV+ with their new series, The Morning Show. Set in the world of morning news shows it will offer "an honest look at the complex relationships between women and men in the workplace".

Among the powerhouse Hollywood directors collaborating with Apple are Spielberg (with his new series Amazing Stories) and M Night Shyamalan, Ron Howard and JJ Abrams. Aquaman actor Jason Momoa, meanwhile, will team up with actress Alfre Woodard on a project called See and there will be new shows for children including one about Cody, a friend of Sesame Street's Big Bird, who will teach children about coding. Of course.

However, it is not clear how much of this content will be immediately available, and how often new content will be uploaded to the service thereafter.

How much will Apple TV + cost?

The subscription price has not been announced. However, if Apple TV + is to compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video it will need to keep subscriptions in the same ball park.

In Ireland, Netflix has three price plans: Basic is €7.99 per month (you can watch on one screen in SD quality); Standard is €10.99 (two screens with HD available) and Premium is €13.99 (four screens with HD and ultra HD available). Amazon Prime Video, meanwhile, costs €2.99 for the first six months, rising to €5.99 per month after that and you can watch on three devices at once. Both services also offer free trials if you're new to their service.

Are there other perks to buying an Apple TV+ subscription?

People will be able to use Siri to search for content and, like with the Netflix app, they will be able to download Apple shows to watch offline.

How can you access Apple TV+?

An updated Apple TV app is launching in May and subscribers will be able to access the service through the app. Apple has stated that subscribers will also have access to their existing subscriptions from other channels and content providers, such as HBO and Amazon Prime. However, it is unclear whether this will be available to users in Ireland.

The Apple TV app will be accessible via the Mac and on smart TVs including Samsung, LG and Sony, as well as Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming sticks.

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video also have apps available for smart TVs, Blu-ray players, cinema systems, and games consoles as well as set-top boxes including Roku and Google TV. You can also purchase an Amazon Fire TV stick which allows you to access Netflix too.

But can it really rival Netflix?

Netflix has been honing its service for two decades from its humble origins as a DVD rental business in 1997. It made its first foray into streaming in 2007 and its Netflix Original series Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, both launched in 2013, cemented consumer trust and loyalty.

Since then the company has further evolved in terms of quality and quantity. Last year it received more Emmy nominations than HBO. Netflix has spent billions of dollars on original programming in every genre and every month it creates more quality, original content than any sane human could consume, not to mention their other acquisitions. The sheer scale of the service and the choice available to consumers is dizzying and one that will not be easily challenged.

The company itself is unfazed by the oncoming charge from competitors. A note in Netflix's letter to shareholders stated, "Our growth is based on how good our experience is, compared to all the other screen time experiences from which consumers choose. Our focus is not on Disney+, Amazon or others, but on how we can improve our experience for our members."

However, if any company is up to the challenge, it's Apple.

Irish Independent

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