I have no problem with Apple making television shows.
I know a lot of people consider it a distraction. What are they doing? Their software is full of bugs. This is not the core of what Apple is. Why is Eddy Cue running off and making TV shows in the midst of all these serious issues with Apple TV and iTunes?
The answers to all these questions is simple: Apple Music. During a live interview with Recode yesterday, Eddy Cue revealed that their first original TV show, Planet of the Apps, will be available exclusively to Apple Music subscribers. And that makes perfect sense. Subscription services, after all, live and die by their exclusive content. Apple can only get so many musical artists to offer new album exclusivity for a few weeks on Apple Music. Sooner or later, Apple needs to have other things that Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, etc. can’t ever get. Otherwise, why choose Apple over all the others?
If Apple were selling Planet of the Apps on iTunes as a one-time purchase, I’d say they’d lost their minds. But tying this to Apple Music suddenly brings the strategy to light.
If you have a problem with Apple creating original content for Apple Music subscribers, then you must believe Apple shouldn’t be in the subscription music business. Because that’s the only long-term play for Apple to succeed. Yes, it seems odd that their first show out of the gate is about developers and not music (Carpool Karaoke will be coming shortly after Planet), but remember: this is the first of many shows to come. The more content Apple produces, the more likely they will get new subscribers who aren’t currently interested in their offering.
Apple could be offering exclusive audio entertainment instead of video. They may choose to do that in the future. Who knows? The point is, if you want to grow your subscriber base, you need to offer something other services can’t. And video is pretty compelling.
Video puts Apple in the advantageous position of offering all the music you’d ever want, and exclusive shows no one else has, all for one price. I doubt Netflix is going to be signing bands anytime soon.1
Right now I subscribe to Netflix, HBO, and Acorn. I get Amazon’s video through my Prime account2. I’m interested in some shows on Showtime and a few other networks, but thus far, none of them have had enough content to make me start forking over the monthly fee.
I don’t subscribe to any music streaming services at all. I’m an old fart who prefers to buy albums like it’s 1950. So how does Apple get me to sign up for Apple Music?
Planet of the Apps is not going to get me, to be sure. The show looks dreadful. Then again, I hate reality TV, and I’m an app developer, so clearly I’m not the target audience. Carpool Karaoke, likewise, sounds about as appealing to me as stabbing myself in the eye with a fork for thirty minutes.
For thousands, if not millions of others, though, those shows may prove to be the deciding factor. Man, I really want to watch that new show. And I can stream any music I want with that same fee?
Why wouldn’t you drop Spotify at that point?
And eventually? Maybe the tenth or fifteenth show Apple produces will be compelling enough to get even me to join. Heck, the majority of Netflix’s exclusive shows are terrible. But then they pop out Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and The Crown, and I’m all in. That’s how this game is played.
Apple doesn’t have to crush Spotify, Netflix, HBO, etc. to win. They just need to offer more and more shows until more and more of us make Apple Music part of our monthly billing cycle. Sounds like they’re on the right track.
- Is the name “Apple Music” unfortunate, given that they are now going to be offering music as well as video? No more awkward than iTunes being the app I launch to watch movies, I guess. And let’s face it: “Netflix” doesn’t make much sense for a service that is known more for its TV shows than movies these days. ↩
- I rarely watch Amazon shows because they have no Apple TV app. Eddy Cue says the ball is in Amazon’s court on that one. The bottom line is that I wouldn’t pay for Amazon video just to get their video. And I would pay for Prime even if it didn’t offer video. But I suspect by offering video, Prime has grown its user base significantly. ↩︎