How does Apple look to take on Netflix and Amazon Prime with a fledgling entertainment service? By launching it globally, in more than 100 countries.
That's the word from a new report by the Information website, which says the service will launch in the first half of 2019 and be free to users of Apple devices like the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.
That's a radically different business strategy than used by rivals, which charge an average of $9.99 monthly for access to programming. That includes Netflix and Amazon (included within the Prime subscription for expedited shipping and entertainment) and CBS, Hulu, HBO and others.
Still, there's little reason to doubt the report, which "The Information" attributed to three unnamed sources said to be familiar with the company’s plans. Apple declined a USA TODAY request for comment.
You don't really have to search far for evidence that such a long-anticipated service is in the works. Following the Netflix-Amazon playbook, Apple is already spending major bucks on some of the biggest names in entertainment – including a couple of former execs from Sony Pictures TV – and is reportedly spending $1 billion on its various projects.
In June, the company inked Oprah Winfrey to a multi-year partnership, with the goal of having her create original series.
Apple has quietly been acquiring programming for the service, which will feature a remake of Steven Spielberg's anthology series "Amazing Stories," last seen on NBC in the 1980s, a new backstage at a TV news show drama with Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carrell, and a series from Oprah Winfrey. Rounding out its presumed ambitions for family-friendly fare, Apple has also signed a deal with Sesame Workshop.
But the expectation is that Apple’s new streaming service will also let you tap into third-party programming. Consumers have long been able to buy and rent movies and TV shows inside iTunes to watch on various Apple devices.
Apple's original streams will reportedly be offered free to Apple hardware owners –certainly iPhones and iPads and naturally to those of you who own an Apple TV set-top box, which competes against Roku and Amazon Fire TV rivals. Those of you with a Mac may also have access.
"The Information" says that Apple device owners could sign up through the service for content from other TV network providers, similar to how Amazon Prime Video subscribers can cut the cord for the likes of HBO or Showtime through Amazon Channels. Bloomberg first outlined that strategy in May.
Apple's streaming TV service could be made available as a standalone offering or incorporated inside the existing Apple TV app.
It seems unlikely, though, that Apple will try to broaden its reach to customers who haven’t bought into its ecosystem, even by charging them a fee for Apple's content. In other words, don’t count on watching some Apple series from an Android phone.
But while Apple’s TV service may not be a play to gain, say, a lot of eyeballs, Apple would certainly be happy to get an Android customer to switch to an iPhone, if that meant the person could watch a compelling show that was an Apple exclusive.
Still, Apple will be playing catch-up. According to eMarketer, Netflix will have 147.5 million individual users this year, translating to about a 74 percent market share.
Netflix, which charges $7.99 monthly for a basic subscription, isn’t a maker of hardware, but the Netflix app can be accessed on smart TVs, computers, phones, tablets, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, and game consoles.
Amazon Prime Video ($119 a year, which includes a variety of other benefits such as free two-day shipping on certain items) is also available across numerous streaming devices, and not just on Amazon’s own Fire TV line of products.
And cord cutters have other places to turn these days, including YouTube, Hulu, HBO and SlingTV.
By sticking with its own devices, hardly a first for Apple, the new streaming service will be more limited.
Streaming subscriptions aren’t new to Apple. Look no further than Apple Music, which has been gaining market share against Spotify, though Apple still trails. The first two original TV shows from Apple, in fact, "Carpool Karaoke" and "Planet of the Apps" debuted on Apple Music.
TV fans, let us know what Apple would have to do to get you to buy into such a streaming service, if you’re not already in the Apple fold.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Apple entertainment app said to launch in early 2019