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The Battle for Eyeballs Makes for an Action-Packed Streaming Arena (Column)

Claudia Eller

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It came as no surprise last week that Disney CEO Bob Iger had resigned from the Apple board since the two companies are poised to launch competing subscription streaming services in less than two months.

But Iger’s departure (announced the same day that Apple revealed its Nov. 1 launch date and $5-a-month price point) underscores how radically the media landscape has transformed just over the past year, with every major entertainment enterprise, including Comcast and WarnerMedia, unveiling plans to take on streaming giant Netflix in a race for consumer eyeballs and dollars.

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When Iger joined the Apple board in 2011, Netflix was only one year into expanding from a mail-order DVD rental service to a streaming business. Consider how much has happened since Netflix served up “House of Cards” as a 13-episode series on Feb. 1, 2013, and went on to become the most ubiquitous supplier of streaming content on the planet.

Then, earlier this year, Apple entered the fray, declaring, “It’s show time,” on its invite to a Hollywood delegation trekking up to the company’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters to learn about the tech giant’s entertainment plans.

As Apple TV Plus becomes the latest streaming entrant to come to market, armed with an initial slate of nine original shows, including Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon’s “The Morning Show” and a book club series hosted by Oprah, the mad race among the industry’s most deep-pocketed players to lock up big talent and programming rights is unfolding at a breakneck pace.

At last week’s Toronto Film Festival, Apple snapped up worldwide distribution rights to Bryce Dallas Howard’s documentary “Dads.” The company has been characteristically vague and secretive about how aggressive it plans to be in the feature film arena and which distribution partner(s) it plans to enlist. I was recently told that Apple doesn’t plan to follow in the footsteps of Netflix and give short shrift to theatrical runs of its movies.

All of this newfound energy being injected into the business sure gives us entertainment journalists a whole lot to think and write about. I love it!

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