Occasionally, Apple surprises us with a new product that we had no clue was coming. That is not the case with the soon-to-be-released Apple video service, which I’ll call “Apple Video”. For at least a year now it has been an open secret that Apple is hiring entertainment executives and making deals for the independent production of new content for Apple Video.
If the rumor sites are to be believed, they've made deals for science fiction shows, comedies, children's shows, and just about everything else. It appears as if Apple wants to hit the ground running with a wide assortment of original programming.
With the rise of cord cutters and some of the fantastic original program we’ve seen from nontraditional media companies, like Netflix and HBO, there appears to be a bit of a gold rush with entertainment companies vying for your monthly subscription dollars. In addition to Netflix and HBO, CBS has a service (that you need to get the new Star Trek series), Hulu has been after your monthly subscription for years, and several new contenders are entering the field.
Disney has announced that they will be launching their subscription-based content channel this year. Disney has been maneuvering for this launch now for years, and they have a lot of pieces in place. They have Disney content, Pixar, Marvel, and my beloved Star Wars. Disney will get my subscription just based on the planned live-action Star Wars series. Besides, Disney has years of back catalog from these sources that they can use to fill programming, and they've recently also bought big chunks of the Fox catalog.
In contrast, Apple doesn't have anything in terms of back catalog. While there are many rumors of deals for new content, there have been very few rumors of them licensing the existing content to put on their new channel. Looking at it in terms of sheer volume, the Disney service looks to eclipse whatever Apple can offer.
That got me thinking about whether or not Apple Video can succeed. No matter how good the original programming, there won't be that much of it and consumers are not going to be excited about paying a monthly fee for just a few shows. While there is a gold rush right now for networks and entertainment companies to get your monthly subscription dollars, eventually I expect there to be a reckoning and there's no certainty that Apple will survive that. Netflix has been hammering away at creating additional content for years, and Apple is just getting in the game. Disney has an impressive amount of existing content and Apple has none (or very little). As much as I like Apple hardware, they are not guaranteed to get my money for their video content unless they can make a compelling case.
I am not predicting that Apple Video is doomed. It just seems to me that they are facing an uphill battle. Indeed the lack of original programming to kick the service off makes me think they may take a different approach. Maybe they won't immediately want $10 a month from you but instead, merely give you the programming as part of an Apple music subscription or some rebranded Apple entertainment service that includes both music and video. Or perhaps they will offer it at a drastically reduced amount while the service builds up programming. If, however, people are expecting Apple to get massive numbers of subscribers at $10 a month with limited new content and no old content, they may be surprised.