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Apple's video strategy 'will remain uninspiring,' analyst says

Daniel Roberts

Apple will hold an event at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters on March 25, and Bloomberg, citing sources, believes the event is to announce its new video subscription service.

The industry has long expected that Apple will launch a Netflix competitor: a paid subscription platform with original content created by Apple and existing content licensed by Apple. Until now, the Apple TV device has merely been a way to access all other streaming apps (including Apple’s platform of movies and TV episodes for rent), and did not require a monthly subscription. Apple has dipped a toe into original streaming television, but only on Apple Music; it has not had a standalone TV subscription app. Now it is expected to launch one.

But KeyBanc, in a new research note, predicts that Apple’s new video strategy “seems likely to remain uninspiring.” Ouch.

The note says that Apple’s efforts in original content have been “sub-scale, years behind key competitors, and lacking in meaningful differentiation. We see little in the effort that appears likely to drive material profits or that could attract a significant number of incremental users to the Apple ecosystem.”

Ben Winston, from left, James Corden and Eric Pankowski attend "Carpool Karaoke (series for Apple Music)" panel at The CBS portion of the 2017 Winter Television Critics Association press tour on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Indeed, Apple’s forays into original TV so far have not gone swimmingly so far.

In June 2017 Apple debuted “Planet of the Apps,” a tech competition show with Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Will.i.am, and Gary Vaynerchuk as judges. The show lasted 10 episodes and then got canceled. Vaynerchuk blamed the show’s failure on Apple for poor marketing. In a review of the series, Adweek wrote that Apple “imitates, not innovates” and that the show “wastes” its celebrity star power.

In August 2017 Apple debuted “Carpool Karaoke: The Series,” co-produced with CBS and based on the recurring viral segments from “The Late Late Show with James Corden”—but not hosted by Corden. That series got renewed for a second season that is currently wrapping up, but as TechCrunch points out, the show has had “almost universally negative reception from critics.” Apple has not yet said whether it will do a third season.

More recently, Apple has announced expensive deals with big Hollywood names like Oprah (multi-year content development deal), M. Night Shyamalan (producing a thriller series for Apple, with Rupert Grint from the “Harry Potter” movies already on board) and others.

Apple reportedly spent $1 billion on original content deals in 2018. Compare that to Netflix’s original content spend of $12 billion last year. And Netflix just won four Oscars. In other words: Apple lags far behind Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

To be sure, Apple’s new video strategy will not only involve original content. Apple’s TV app will soon come pre-loaded on Samsung TVs so that customers won’t need to buy a separate Apple TV device; and its revamped platform is “likely to improve the productization of third-party video services available through its platform, likely similar to Amazon Channels,” KeyBanc points out.

But KeyBanc concludes that Apple TV’s distribution of other TV apps “seems unlikely to drive material profits” and would not likely be as compelling as Netflix. Add to that mix the highly anticipated launch of Disney+ later this year.

So the pressure is on for Apple to surprise and impress its many entertainment skeptics.

Daniel Roberts is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance and closely covers streaming tech. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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