- CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP)
Apple announced a new streaming service, Apple TV Plus, which will house its original shows and movies and could compete with Netflix, Amazon and cable TV itself. The new subscription platform with original programming is scheduled to bow this fall in 100 countries.
Apple made this and other news at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, in a Monday event studded with celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. The iPhone has long been Apple’s marquee product and main money maker, but sales are starting to decline. The company is pushing digital subscriptions as it searches for new growth.
Apple saved its biggest star for last. Winfrey took the stage to give a few details on her plans for Apple’s newly unveiled streaming service.
Winfrey, who received a standing ovation at the event, says she has two documentaries in the works for Apple TV Plus and is planning “the most stimulating book club on the planet.” The TV personality says that will include streamed conversations with authors.
She told the audience, “There has never been a moment quite like this one. We have this unique opportunity to rise to our best selves in how we use, and choose to use, both our technology and our humanity.”
Spielberg will be reviving his anthology sci-fi series "Amazing Stories" on Apple TV Plus.
Aniston will star with Witherspoon and Carell in a show called “Morning Show.”
“Aquaman” star Jason Momoa will star in a show called “Sea” taking place in a world devastated by a virus that wiped out most of the population, leaving survivors blind.
Big Bird of “Sesame Street” also showed up to promote a new show for preschoolers.
The streaming service will be free of ads and will be available across Apple devices, some smart TVs and the Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices. That’s unusual, as Apple has historically limited its availability on streaming devices to its own Apple TV.
Apple also noted that its Apple TV app brings together different streaming services and traditional cable subscriptions.
Netflix turned “binge watching” into a worldwide phenomenon several years ago. Apple’s new video service is expected to have original TV shows and movies that reportedly cost it more than $1 billion — far less than Netflix and HBO spend every year.
Making must-have TV shows and movies that are watchable on any device has turned Netflix into a force in both Silicon Valley and Hollywood.
But Apple remained focused on making on gadgets: iPhones, iPads, computers and its Apple TV streaming box for TVs. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs began toying with the idea of building a powerful TV business, but he couldn’t pull it off before his death in 2011. It has taken his successor, CEO Tim Cook, nearly eight years to draw up the script that the company will now try to execute.
“Apple is very late to this game,” eMarketer analyst Paul Verna said. “Netflix has become the gold standard in how to create and distribute content, using all the data they have about their viewers.”
Netflix’s prowess has attracted 139 million subscribers worldwide. But Apple will have several other deep-pocketed competitors fighting for consumers’ dollars. Amazon has also become a formidable force in video streaming. Walt Disney Co. is launching its own service this year, armed with an imposing library that became more formidable with its purchase of 21st Century Fox’s films and TV series. AT&T is debuting another streaming service built around HBO.
Apple has plenty of money to spend, though, with about $245 billion in cash and marketable securities. It must prove itself attractive to Hollywood even without a track record for supporting high-quality programming and then ensuring it gets widely seen.
As part of its efforts to make quick connections, Apple hired two longtime Sony television executives, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, in 2017. They have also signed up filmmakers such as Ron Howard and Sofia Coppola, who spoke during a video Monday.
News service, credit card, video games
Apple also laid out the details of its news subscription service, Apple News Plus, and a new credit card.
The news service costs $10 a month and includes roughly 300 magazines and a handful of major newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. Missing from the announcement were other major newspaper publishers, who have reportedly been wary of Apple’s terms. Apple says advertisers won’t track readers inside the app. That distinguishes it from Facebook and Google, the other major online news hubs.
The company also said it is launching a MasterCard credit card called Apple Card. It will integrate Apple Maps to show users where they spend money, but at the same time, Apple says it won’t know where you spend or where.
It won’t have any late fees or annual fees and offer 2 percent cash back. Other cards also offer cash-back rewards.
Apple will additionally launch a subscription service for games this year.
Apple Arcade subscribers will get to play more than 100 games, curated by Apple. The games will be exclusive to Apple’s service. Games can be downloaded and played offline — on the Apple-made iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV.
Notably, Apple says all games in this service will allow unlimited play and will have no in-app purchases, which are common on mobile games. Though many mobile games are given out for free, players can rack up hundreds of dollars for optional extras such as virtual weapons.
Apple says the Arcade subscription will be available this fall. The company did not say how much it will cost.
The Arcade subscription is part of a series of announcements Apple is making in Cupertino on Monday to emphasize paid services on its devices.
Google announced its own video game streaming service last week. That service focuses more on traditional video games, though it will also allow games to be played on phones and tablets
Arbel reported from New York.