Apple has today unveiled its secretive, decade-long effort to build a TV subscription service that will rival the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime.
The move is part of a new billion-dollar effort to expand Apple’s “services” division of streaming apps and subscription products as iPhone sales taper.
The iPhone-maker has long-harboured ambitions to conquer the TV world, launching products such as its set top Apple TV box and hosting short episodes on its Apple Music service. But until now, those ambitions have largely gone unrealised.
Details about its latest push into the sector were revealed today at the Steve Jobs Theater at its Cupertino, California, headquarters. It was the technology company’s first splashy launch event that has not feature new gadgets or hardware.
The tech giant has commissioned programming from A-list names such as Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.
As well as the TV streaming service, Apple is expected to offer subscriber packages to other major TV channels and launch a subscription news and magazine app. It could also tease its plans for a similar gaming subscriber package.
Apple’s live event will kick off in the Steve Jobs Threatre in Cupertino at 5pm UK time. Here is everything we know about Apple’s planned launches so far.
What is the new Apple TV Plus streaming service?
The centrepiece of today’s launch event is the long-awaited TV streaming service. The service will feature a mix of original shows, commissioned by Apple, and paid-for additional apps from the likes of HBO and Showtime.
The app will be called Apple TV Plus, and will sit alongside Apple’s set top Apple TV streaming box.
The service will contain a roster of original Apple shows. One of the first among these is expected to be a show featuring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell called”The Morning Show”.
Other Hollywood darlings signed up include Oprah Winfrey and directors J.J. Abrams and Stephen Spielberg all expected to create content for the show.
However, the long run up to its launch hasn’t been easy. Apple is said to have a firm hand in creating shows and dropped a show executive produced by rapper Dr Dre over content viewed as being too graphic and sexual. Apple’s own content is said to be more family friendly.
Netflix has made it clear it will not be featuring on any Apple streaming app.
How much will Apple’s TV shows cost?
Apple is expected to charge for its original TV streaming app, although it is not clear how much that will cost yet. During the announcement, the technology giant said it will be available from May 2019. The feature will appear on smartphones and iPads and is expected to be available on third-party smart TVs in the same way that users can stream Netflix. It is still not clear if it will be launched on non-iOS devices.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Apple will offer “one click” subscriptions to HBO, Showtime and Starz through its app, costing $9.99 a-piece, but Apple has yet to confirm pricing plans. Apple is also said to be in talks to include its app on Roku streaming devices.
Who are Apple’s rivals?
The most high-profile of the rival services, Netflix has more than 130 million subscribers globally and features a mixture of award-winning original content and other TV and film releases.
Users can watch content on-demand on a variety of devices, from laptops to smartphones and video game consoles.
It is also possible to download shows to watch offline when users do not have an internet connection.
Netflix also offers tiered monthly subscription pricing, with prices ranging from £5.99 for the basic service, to its £9.99 premium service which includes access to compatible content in Ultra HD resolution and the ability to watch on up to 4 different screens at the same time.
Amazon may also cause problems for Apple. Available as part of Amazon’s wider Prime rewards programme which offers faster delivery times on items bought from Amazon’s e-commerce business, Prime Video is a mix of popular third-party content and its open original programming.
The service is available across mobile devices as well as Amazon’s line of Fire TV plug-in boxes and sticks and PCs.
It also includes Amazon’s X-Ray feature, which enables users to identify actors and songs while watching a programme and find out more about them.
Subscribers can choose to pay £7.99 a month for the full Prime service which includes faster parcel delivery and access to Prime Music, or pay £5.99 for just Prime Video.
In the US, Prime Video also includes a Channels feature which enables users to sign up to other third-party services, such as those offered by networks HBO and Showtime.
Apple News premium subscriptions
As well as its new TV offering, Apple has revealed a subscription service for news and magazines that will see iPhone and iPad users paying to access online versions of premium news apps.
The premium news app will cost users $9.99 per month and include access to 300 magazines and content from newspapers. It is available now from the US and Canada, and is expected to launch in the UK this Autumn.
The launch comes just over a year after Apple’s purchase of Texture, a “digital newsstand” app that was designed to offer curated content against the mass of content from the likes of Facebook or Twitter.
The new app will be a premium version of the current Apple News, offering more content normally locked behind paywalls. Apple is reportedly planning to take a 50/50 revenue cut from the news app.
Apple gaming hub
Apple has also launched a third strand to its new services – a gaming subscription service for its app store. Rival Google has already launched headlong into gaming with its Google Stadia cloud gaming service.
Apple’s gaming efforts are quite different, focusing on bundled games for iPhones and iPads that can be accessed for a monthly fee.
The service, which will allow users to download games on any device, will be available in over 150 different countries in Autumn. Developer partners include Konami, Disney and Lego.
Apple credit card
In addition to its three entertainment offerings, Apple has also augmented its Apple Pay service on iPhones and the Apple Watch with a virtual credit card launched with Goldman Sachs.
The card will sit in the Apple Wallet of Apple Pay and be used for contactless payments or online purchases on iPhones, iPads and Macbooks. It will be Goldman’s first consumer credit card, although the banking giant recently launched its Marcus payments app.
The new credit card, made of titanium and devoid of a card number, security CVV code and expiry date, will be available from the US from this summer.
Apple has confirmed that it will waive late fees and overseas charges, and will grant users a daily 2pc reward scheme on purchases, which increases to 3pc for Apple products.
Apple has not confirmed the pricing of the product.
The new credit card was first reported last year, but has never been revealed. Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon is said to be joining the Apple Event today.
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