In the COVID-19 Era, Where’s Apple TV+?

As the spread of the coronavirus forces millions to “shelter-in-place” globally, home entertainment distribution, including subscription streaming video, is expected to surge as households stream increasing amounts of content.

While Disney+ launched operations in select European countries, and Netflix shows no signs of slowing as its original shows (i.e. “Tiger King”) continue to dominate viewer lists, Apple’s branded SVOD service, Apple TV+, remains largely in the shadows.

Recent data from Google Trends suggests consumer searches for Apple TV+ remain largely non-existent.

 

Launched on Nov. 2, 2019, the Apple TV+ offers a slate of original programs such as the Golden Globes-winning “The Morning Show,” with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, and Oprah Winfrey’s “Oprah’s Book Club,” and “Oprah Talks COVID-19,” among others.

Yet, some analysts contend the service, which is being given away with new Apple hardware purchases, and costs $4.99 monthly to others, isn’t gaining much traction compared to Disney+, Netflix and Hulu.

Ampere Analysis suggested Apple TV+ had 33 million “subs” early on, an impressive number that the London-based research firm attributed largely to free trials.

While Disney+ has more than 30 million subs, the majority are also free 12-month trials through third-party promotions such as Verizon. Netflix, by comparison, no longer includes trial memberships in its subscriber count.

Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi suggests that fewer than 10 million people have signed up for the free 12-month Apple TV+ subscription in the company’s most-recent fiscal quarter.

Sacconaghi characterized the tally as “surprisingly low” for a brand as well-known as Apple, which hasn’t officially released any OTT video subscriber data.

Research firm Antenna said Apple realized a 10% spike in new subs from March 14 – 16 as the coronavirus spread in the United States. The firm said the increase was the lowest of any major streaming service.

Apple reportedly will spend $6 billion on original content in 2020, buttressing a slate that currently includes “Dickinson,” “See,” “Ghostwriter,” “For All Mankind,” “Helpsters,” “Hala,” and “Little America,” among others.

“[Apple is] still not in [OTT video] with both feet,” media executive Barry Diller reportedly told a podcast. “They’ve put some capital in, but relatively little [for Apple]. They’re not making a major effort.”

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter contends that despite a major marketing effort around Apple TV+, the finished product thus far has been underwhelming.

“Apple TV+ only had a handful of shows at launch and no catalog,” Pachter wrote in a post.

Parks: Industry Awards Boost SVOD Platforms

Everyone loves a winner. New research from Parks Associates suggests over-the-top video services — and their large slate of original programming — will benefit as their recognition during awards season in video entertainment continues to expand.

For this year’s Golden Globes, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon earned a total of 47 nominations, nearly double the 25 they received last year, with the three services winning two awards each.

“Apple TV+ streaming service found success with its flagship series ‘The Morning Show,’ starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, which won awards from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Critics’ Choice Award,” analyst Steve Nason said in a statement. “These accomplishments mark Apple TV+’s first industry awards since its launch in November 2019.”

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Nason said awards recognition brings legitimacy to a platform’s original content and can be a significant boost, especially in the early days after its launch.

“Such recognition certainly helped Netflix when the company first ventured into original content, and now the service scored 24 Oscar nominations this year, led by The Irishman and Marriage Story.”

Netflix’s long-term investment in premium original content has helped the service become very difficult for consumers to relinquish, according to Parks.

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Among Netflix subs, 64% feel it would difficult to give up the service, including 47% who feel it would be “very difficult,” the highest among top OTT video services measured by the Dallas-based research company.

Parks finds that as of Q3 2019, pay-TV and OTT services reach roughly the same number of consumers — around 72% of U.S. broadband households. Pay-TV’s long-reigning dominance has dwindled as the OTT video service market booms.

CEO: Apple TV+ Looking for Original Content, Not Re-Runs

Apple’s foray into subscription streaming video via Apple TV+ is all about original programming — not expensive re-runs. That’s according to CEO Tim Cook in response to a question during the Feb. 26 shareholder meeting about why the tech giant hasn’t gone after well-known catalog fare such as “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory” or “The Office,” among others.

“We love ‘Friends.’ Who doesn’t love ‘Friends’? It’s not what Apple TV+ is about, it’s about original programming,” Cook said. “It doesn’t feel right for Apple to go out and take a rerun. It doesn’t feel like Apple.”

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AT&T’s WarnerMedia Entertainment reportedly paid $85 million per year for five years ($425 million) securing the exclusive streaming rights for “Friends” away from Netflix.

NBCUniversal paid more than $500 million for streaming rights to “The Office,” while Netflix paid about the same for “Seinfeld.”

Apple TV+ launched Nov. 1, 2019 with 24 original series, including Golden Globes winner “The Morning Show” for Jennifer Aniston. Other series include “Home Before Dark,” “Amazing Stories,” “Truth Be Told,” “Trying,” “See,” and “Dickenson,” starring Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee).

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“We’re going to be focused on original programming,” Cook said, adding that Apple TV+ is off to a “rousing start” without elaborating additional details, including subscriber numbers.

Apple giving away a free year of the service with any purchase of an Apple hardware product.

Hulu’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Top New, HBO’s ‘Westworld’ Top Returning Shows on March TV Time Anticipation Charts

Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere” was the top anticipated new show and HBO’s “Westworld” was the top anticipated returning show on the TV Time charts for March.

TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

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Hulu’s new “Little Fires Everywhere” miniseries, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, hits screens March 18. Based on the Celeste Ng novel, the eight-episode show follows the fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and an enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. Coming in at No. 2 on the new show chart was Hulu’s sci-fi thriller “Devs,” debuting March 5. In the series, when a software engineer’s boyfriend disappears, she suspects foul play and investigates the secretive division of her tech company. Behind HBO’s “The Plot Against America” at No. 3 was “Amazon Stories” (No. 4) from new streaming service Apple TV+. The series is a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s 1985 anthology series.

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Among returning shows, coming in No. 2 behind the HBO sci-fi series “Westworld,” returning for its third season March 15, was Netflix’s Spanish teen drama “Elite,” with its season three hitting screens March 13. Netflix also cleaned up on the rest of the returning shows chart with its series taking the No. 3 through No. 5 spots.

 

Most Anticipated New Shows for March:

  1. “Little Fires Everywhere” (Hulu) — March 18
  2. “Devs” (Hulu) — March 5
  3. “The Plot Against America” (HBO) — March 16
  4. “Amazon Stories” (Apple TV+) — March 6
  5. “Dispatches From Elsewhere” (AMC) — March 1

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for March:

  1. “Westworld” (HBO) — March 15
  2. “Elite” (Netflix) — March 13
  3. “Paradise PD” (Netflix) — March 6
  4. “Ozark” (Netflix) — March 27
  5. “Castlevania” (Netflix) — March 5

 

YouTube Readying Third-Party OTT Video Platform

Google-owned YouTube is reportedly looking to borrow a page from the Amazon Channels playbook with a new platform featuring third-party subscription streaming video services.

Amazon launched Channels in 2015 featuring direct access to services such as HBO Now, Dove Channel, Acorn TV, Shudder, UMC, Showtime OTT and Starz. Amazon handles the billing and backend support for a fee or percentage of subscription revenue. Apple is doing the same type of business platform with Apple TV and Apple News.

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The Information, citing sources familiar with the situation, said the YouTube platform would enable a “wide range of subscription-streaming services,” including YouTube TV, which costs $49.99 monthly.

Google in 2015 launched ad-free video streaming subscription service YouTube Red, later bowing YouTube TV for $35 monthly. The platform recently topped two million monthly subscribers — just behind market leaders Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV.

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Netflix’s ‘Locke & Key’ Top Rising Show, ‘Sex Education’ Top Binge on TV Time Charts

Netflix’s “Locke & Key” was the top rising show and the service’s “Sex Education” was the top binge show on the TV Time charts for the week ended Feb. 9.

“Locke & Key,” which debuted Feb. 7 on Netflix, is an adaptation of the comic book series. After their father is murdered under mysterious circumstances, the three Locke siblings and their mother move into their ancestral home, Keyhouse, which they discover is full of magical keys that may be connected to their father’s death. As the Locke children explore the different keys and their unique powers, a mysterious demon awakens — and will stop at nothing to steal them.

Meanwhile, Apple TV+’s “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet,” about the antics in a video game development studio, took the No. 2 spot on the rising show chart.

The British dramedy “Sex Education,” the top binge show, follows a teen who offers sex advice to his peers. Season 2 debuted on Netflix Jan. 17 — just one week after Season 1. The cast includes Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, Connor Swindells and Kedar Williams-Stirling. Taking the silver on the binge chart was “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” season two of which premiered Jan. 24. It follows the adventures of a teenage witch, portrayed by Kiernan Shipka, and is based on an Archie Comics character. Grabbing the bronze on the binge chart was the animated comedy “BoJack Horseman,” which entered its sixth and final season on Netflix Jan. 31.

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TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program. The network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended Feb. 9 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Sex Education” (Netflix) — 3.58%
  2. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix) — 2.88%
  3. “BoJack Horseman” (Netflix) — 2.40%
  4. “Locke & Key” (Netflix) — 2.17%
  5. “Friends” (NBC) — 1.90%
  6. “Vikings” (History) — 1.72%
  7. “You” (Netflix) — 1.69%
  8. “The Good Place” (NBC) — 1.65%
  9. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC) — 1.62%
  10. “Ragnarok” (Netflix) — 1.29%

 

Top Shows on the Rise Week Ended Feb. 9 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Locke & Key” (Netflix) — 100%
  2. “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” (Apple TV+) — 99.8%
  3. “Sanremo Music Festival” (Rai 1) — 99.7%
  4. “The Masked Singer” (Fox) — 94.6%
  5. “Les Anges” (NRJ 12) — 94.4%
  6. “Team Kaylie” (Netflix) — 93.3%
  7. “Dragon Ball GT” (Fuji TV) — 86.8%
  8. “Vermin” (Blackpills) — 77.9%
  9. “Tempted” (MBC) — 75.3%
  10. “MacGyver” (CBS) — 70.7%

Research: Disney Streaming Service to Top 126 Million Subs by 2025

On the heels of Disney’s successful subscriber results for its flagship streaming service Disney+, Digital TV Research has revamped its projections for the SVOD platform.

The London-based firm projects Disney+ will be the “biggest SVOD winner” over the next five years, adding 105 million paying subs between the end of 2019 through 2025, topping 126 million.

Disney+ will reach 53% of Netflix’s subscriber total by 2025 — up from 27% in 2020. Five global SVOD platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+) will have 553 million paying subs by 2025, adding 196 million subscribers between 2020 and 2025.

Netflix will gain 51 million subs between 2020 and 2025, accounting for 44% of the five platforms’ subscribers, down from 53% in 2020.

“Much of this initial growth will come from the United States, principally due to the attractive bundling of Disney+ with ESPN+ and Hulu,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research, said in a statement. “ESPN+ and Hulu are not yet available outside the U.S., but we still expect strong Disney+ take-up globally.”

Digital TV Research expects HBO Max will have 30 million paying subs by 2025, with Apple TV+ having 26 million.

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LG Expands Apple TV+ App to 2019 Smart TVs

LG Electronics is expanding compatibility with the Apple TV+ app to its 2019 smart televisions in more than 80 countries. The South Korean CE manufacturer unveiled Apple TV+ functionality with its 2020 smart TVs.

The Apple TV+ app gives LG TV users the ability to subscribe and stream the video subscription service featuring original shows such as “The Morning Show,” “See,” “Servant” and “Little America.”

The Apple TV app affords LG smart TV owners access to their iTunes video library and the ability to buy or rent over 100,000 movies and TV shows.

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LG’s 2019 TVs also support Apple AirPlay 2, which allows users to share or mirror content from their iPhone, iPad or Mac directly to an LG TV. Customers can also play music on the TV and sync it with other AirPlay 2 compatible speakers anywhere in the home.

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“LG continues to offer the best home entertainment experience through technological innovations that support the delivery of high quality viewing and user convenience,” Park Hyoung-sei, president of LG Home Entertainment Co, said in a statement. “By bringing the Apple TV app and Apple TV+ to even more TV models, we are once again demonstrating our determination to meet consumers’ needs and add value to our products.”

 

NAB Show to Bow ‘Streaming Experience’ Content Showcase

The NAB Show is introducing The Streaming Experience, a new content showcase curated by streaming and online video expert Dan Rayburn that will feature more than 50 OTT platforms and streaming devices.

The showcase, which will give NAB Show attendees a first-hand look at the latest streaming video services, according to organizers, will be located in the Central Lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center and is open to all registered attendees during exhibit hours starting April 19.

The NAB Show takes place in Las Vegas April 18-22.

A living-room setting will allow attendees the opportunity to test OTT services side-by-side to compare content, video quality, ad formats, playback features and delivery methods. The Streaming Experience will feature hardware from Amazon, Apple, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, LG, TCL and Samsung. Streaming services on display will include Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, Disney+, Hulu, NBC Sports, Netflix and YouTube TV, among others. New services from HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi may also be showcased, dependent on their launch dates, according to organizers.

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“Streaming is a major focus of the 2020 NAB Show, and the new Streaming Experience is the largest showcase of its kind in the industry,” said NAB EVP of conventions and business operations Chris Brown in a statement. “We are excited for attendees to join their industry peers in this living room environment and experience nearly every live and on-demand streaming service on the market today.”

Additional details of the Streaming Experience, including renderings of the new space, can be found here.

 

Analysts Keep Piling on Apple TV+

The late Steve Jobs infamously called streaming video (i.e. Apple TV) a “little hobby,” dismissing the medium despite the burgeoning rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Perhaps Apple should heed Jobs’ apparent indifference.

The tech giant is now diving into the SVOD deep-end with its hordes of free cash hoping a rebranded Apple TV+ app and upwards of $6 billion in content spending will compete with upstarts such as Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi.

While the $4.99 monthly service is free for a year if you buy any new iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV, or Mac computer, analysts and op-eds are tripping over themselves criticizing Apple TV+ in comparison to Disney+.

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London’s Ampere Analysis, which claims Apple TV+ has more subscribers than Disney+ and Hulu, suggests Disney+’s “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian” remains a “key driver,” with viewership dwarfing Apple’s original programs, “The Morning Show” and “See.”

“‘The Mandalorian’ maintained a higher relative interest level than ‘The Morning Show’ throughout its entire run, despite Disney+ being available in only six markets,” analyst Tingting Li wrote in a post.

Indeed, Apple TV+ launched Nov. 1, 2019, in 100 markets worldwide, yet interest in “Morning Show” and “See” dropped off after the first two weeks, according to Li.

“The Mandalorian” has the same critical rating as “Friends,” based on Ampere’s proprietary quality measure. Li says future Disney+ series will include more spin-off shows such as “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” from Lucasfilm and “WandaVision” from Marvel Studios.

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Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter contends that despite a major marketing effort around Apple TV+, which included signing up Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steven Spielberg for original content, the finished product thus far has been underwhelming.

“[It] only had a handful of shows at launch,” Pachter wrote in a post.

Logan Purk, analyst at Edward Jones, said the streaming service would remain a “cash drain,” due to the investments required to produce original shows.

“They are leaning towards big stars and high production values,” Purk told IndieWire.

D.A. Davison & Co. analyst Tom Forte contends that while select Apple TV+ programs are “compelling,” from an investment standpoint he doubts the content is worth the investment.

“Apple is risking brand damage by offering the service at such a low price and even giving it away for free,” Forte said.

Forbes analyst John Koetsier goes one step further. He says Apple TV+ is doomed and the sooner the Cupertino, Calif.-based company realizes that the better.

Koetsier says that after unrivaled success with iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac computers, the company is stumbling with TV+ and a sudden focus on original content.

“Apple: you are amazing at hardware. You are one of the best in the world at combining hardware, software, and services,” he wrote. “You are not a media production powerhouse.”