Content Wars: Apple Investing $4billion in Original Programmes
Apple’s long rumoured television streaming service is set to launch in the first half of 2019. Armed with a $4billion budget for original content over the next 3 years, Apple is moving from the world of television hardware with Apple TV into the extremely competitive world of content. A TV team has been in the works for a while now and boasts ex Sony-Pictures, BBC, Fox and Warner Bros execs responsible for hit shows such as Glee, Luther & Narcos. This level of talent and experience guarantees an abundance of hit shows, with an exclusive thriller series led by industry favourite M. Night Shyamalan already confirmed.
While famous names and exciting shows will help to attract an audience, the average household is likely to already hold multiple TV subscriptions (Sky, Netflix & Amazon for example), so Apple's rumoured strategy of making the service free to anyone with an Apple device is going to be integral to enticing viewers over to their platform. However, with nearly two-thirds of Americans owning an Apple product as of October 2017 and therefore not paying for access, it will be interesting to see how Apple plan on generating the revenue to justify the $4billion spend.
If the meteoric rise of Netflix & Amazon wasn’t enough to entice people away from traditional TV, it’s unlikely that Apple streaming will either. Instead, this is likely to be ‘just another’ SVoD platform, set to expand the already huge content market, as opposed to stealing audiences away from other services. This means even more fragmented audiences and increased competition for viewing time. One of the reasons Netflix is so successful is that it’s easy to access, it’s integrated with smart TVs and will soon even be available via Sky. It has become almost like just another channel, with a seamless transition between watching traditional TV to Netflix, no fiddling around with trying to get Airplay to connect, it’s just a touch of a button. It’s this ease of access that’s allowed it to integrate so perfectly into people’s viewing habits and it’s something that may prove difficult for Apple to replicate.
Apple has the luxury of a comparatively large budget for content, which has wide-reaching impacts on traditional broadcasters. Take Black Mirror for example, originally a lower-budget show on Channel 4, when it moved to Netflix the larger budgets lead to more episodes per season and big-name actors and directors, resulting in infinitely more success than the satirical show saw during its run on Channel 4. Jay Hunt (now Creative Director at Apple), Channel 4’s Chief Creative Officer at the time, expressed her feelings in a statement “We grew it from a dangerous idea to a brand that resonated globally. Of course, it’s disappointing that the first broadcast window in the UK is then sold to the highest bidder, ignoring the risk a publicly owned channel like 4 took backing it.”
Though Apple’s budgets are smaller in comparison to those of the established SVoD players, they dwarf those of a lot of traditional broadcasters, meaning they’ll be in a prime position when it comes to bidding wars for premium content rights. There’s a danger of smaller broadcasters being priced out, or programme bidding starting to mirror the ludicrous nature of football, with seasons appearing on different channels or platforms depending on who is the highest bidder.
Only time will tell what the impact will be, but with an exponential increase in buyers, the competition for content, and viewers, is on.