Apple Bows New Services, Including Apple TV+, Channels

Apple March 25 unveiled a new Apple TV app — dubbed Apple TV Channels — as well as enhanced Apple TV+, an ad-free platform featuring original content, access to all 100,000 iTunes titles, in addition to third-party online TV channels and subscription streaming video services.

The Channels platform mirrors Amazon Prime Channels — the later affording Prime members direct access to third-party SVOD services, includes HBO Now, Showtime, Starz, Epix and CBS All Access, among others.

Apple said the new Apple TV+ app would be added as an upgrade to the existing Apple TV app, in addition to availability for the first time on the Mac computer this fall, in addition to smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, LG and Vizio, with availability on Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

Users can share Apple TV+ and related subscriptions to Apple TV channels with family members for no additional charge.

Pricing for Apple TV+ will be revealed later this fall. The apps, which are available in 10 countries, will be expanded to more than 100 countries this year.

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To help launch Apple TV+, and a reported $2 billion original content budget, the company brought out a slew of actors and directors to highlight the app, including Steven Spielberg, who talked about the reboot of “Amazing Stories,” bowing later this year.

Spielberg said he first came into contact with “Amazing Stories” through an anthology magazine his father “devoured” when Spielberg was a young boy. The director said he would be working with Apple to resurrect “this 93-year-old brand.”

“The stories he read to me were ‘amazing,’ or so it seemed to 5-year-old me,” Spielberg said. “That amazement is a human birthright. And we want to transport the audience with every episode.”

In addition, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell introduced “The Morning Show,” an episodic series starring the trio and revolving around the morning television industry. It’s Aniston’s first TV show since “Friends.”

“We pull back the dynamic between men and women in the high-stakes world of morning news shows,” Witherspoon said.

“All of this and the chance to collaborate again has brought me back to television, and I’m really excited about it,” Aniston added.

The “Apple Special Event” event ended with Oprah Winfrey announcing her involvement with Apple TV+ through two original documentaries about mental health and workplace sexual harassment.

“We’re honored that the absolute best lineup of storytellers in the world — both in front of and behind the camera — are coming to Apple TV+,” Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet software and services, said in a statement. “Apple TV+ will be home to some of the highest quality original storytelling that TV and movie lovers have seen yet.”

Apple News+

The event’s first hour brought word of a new news subscription service, Apple News+, that for $9.99 a month gives subscribers access to newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times, as well as upwards of 300 magazine, including Billboard, Sports Illustrated, Essence, National Geographic, The New Yorker and People.

Subscriptions may be shared at no cost with family members. The app features animated magazine covers. Apple stressed that advertisers would not be able to track data.

The Wall Street Journal later issued a statement clarifying that not all content in its daily digital edition would be available through Apple News+. Participating publishers reportedly are splitting upwards of 50% revenue with Apple on the new service.

Apple Arcade

Apple also teased a credit card (backed by Goldman Sachs and MasterCard) dubbed Apple Card through its Apple Pay platform. It also announced an online video game platform, Apple Arcade, it said would enable users access to more than 100 premium games. The move follows Google’s announcement of game platform through YouTube.

Dallas Lawrence, chief brand officer for OpenX, an independent ad exchange, said the Apple announcements had more to do with distribution than content or celebrity.

“Despite all of the celebrity sizzle, the real meat of today had nothing to do with Reese Witherspoon or Oprah Winfrey. It has everything to do with Apple’s move to abandon its device strategy for OTT and bring Apple TV+ to Smart TVs everywhere,” said Lawrence.
He said internal research has shown OTT users do not want to be beholden to one device and operating system.
“Expanding Apple TV beyond Apple’s own device ecosystem shows that Apple understands that the platform is more important than the hardware, and this is a key move if they are going to become a ubiquitous video platform for every consumer,” Lawrence said.

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