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TECHNOLOGY

Apple Set To Reveal Two Controversial New Services Soon (You Probably Only Need One of Them)

The tech giant has some premium content it would like to sell you.

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BY Eric Mack - 14 Feb 2019

apple's two controversial services

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Apple has been making mega money on iPhones for years now, but it would really like to have some other direct connections to your wallet. To that end, the tech giant is reportedly planning to unveil two new subscription services in March.

Bloomberg reports that a new paid video service featuring shows Apple has either acquired or produced will be announced at a March 25 event featuring appearances by Hollywood stars like Jennifer Aniston and J.J. Abrams.

The service is being compared to Amazon and Netflix due to the option to add on networks like Starz, but it's not clear what exactly the base content will consist of. If it is truly limited to shows that are either Apple originals or exclusive to the company, that sounds less like a true Netflix competitor and more like another HBO.

But whatever Apple winds up offering, the real question will be: Do we really need another streaming service? It doesn't sound as though Apple plans to compete on the basis of overall title selection, and the company rarely competes on price.

That means Apple would need to offer me something that I really want and can't get anywhere else to get me to subscribe. In the streaming world, HBO is one of the few names that does this really well.

The problem for Apple is, HBO has spent decades building up its pedigree at producing some of the best programming around. All the way back to "Dream On" and the "Larry Sanders Show" up through "Game of Thrones" and "Westworld."

HBO's catalog is one of the best ways to bring a visiting alien species up to speed on the past few generations' worth of pop culture.

By contrast, when I think of Apple's most popular piece of original content, all I can conjure is a Macintosh ad from 1984.

But hey, maybe Tim Cook will wow me on March 25 by announcing the long awaited reboot of "Quantum Leap." Or maybe a reality show that takes us behind the scenes of one of history's most successful but also notoriously secretive companies.

Fewer Free Bites Of Apple News

The other new paid offering Apple has on tap will reportedly put some publications behind a paywall in Apple News. You've probably noticed a trend among lots of news organizations, from your local newspaper to the Washington Post, to require subscriptions for online access beyond a few free articles per month.

Right now, you can access both free publishers and outlets that require a subscription through Apple News, but Apple isn't taking any of that subscription revenue.

That's set to change in the coming months, according to The Wall Street Journal (in an article that's behind a paywall). The report says Apple would like to bundle a number of publications into a monthly Apple News subscription and keep as much as half of the revenue for itself.

It's an arrangement that has publishers less than pleased in a number of instances, according to the story, but apparently negotiations are not yet final.

Interestingly, an Apple News subscription offering has nearly the opposite value proposition of an Apple streaming video service. It could offer up content that customers really want and do it at a better value if the bundle is reasonably well priced.

But in the end, it's going to come down to whether or not Apple has the goods. Will Tim Cook show us programming we want to pay to watch? What about enough big-name publications we can't get for free elsewhere that are willing to give a big cut to Apple?

We may have to wait until March 25 to find out.

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