Apple streaming service launching in mid-April, report says

Apple TV room
Apple is taking on Amazon, HBO, Hulu and Netflix with a reported $1 billion content budget. (Pixabay)

A launch date may finally be in sight after years of Apple hiring executives and amassing original content for its video streaming service.

According to The Information, Apple is eyeing a mid-April launch for its subscription streaming service. The report said that Apple will update its TV app and add support for the streaming service.

In 2017, Apple hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg away from Sony Pictures Television and gave them the reins to Apple’s fledgling original video content business. Since then, Apple has hired on more experienced television executives and announced several projects, along with a multiyear deal with Oprah Winfrey.

Last year, The New York Times reported that Apple’s original series could begin debuting as soon as March 2019. Apple is taking on Amazon, HBO, Hulu and Netflix with a reported $1 billion content budget. The company has lined up programming including a series about a morning TV show starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston. Apple has also booked a series from “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle, an “Amazing Stories” reboot from Steven Spielberg and an animated series from the creator of Fox’s “Bob’s Burgers.”

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If Apple ends up offering its video streaming service through its TV app, it will reach millions of consumers that use iPhones and iPads. But Apple is likely concerned with reaching viewers’ TV screens—the company’s Apple TV set-top device trails rivals like Amazon and Roku in terms of market share—and that could be the reasoning behind a slew of agreements the company announced during CES.

Samsung smart TV owners will now be able to access their existing iTunes libraries and buy or rent other movies and TV shows directly from their TVs without having to use an Apple device such as an Apple TV. Apple also announced that smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, LG and Vizio will all soon be updated with AirPlay 2 support, which will allow iOS devices users to stream content on the big screen without using an Apple TV.

But even with a team in place, a lineup of original content in the works and the potential for expanded distribution to smart TVs, some analysts worry about remaining hurdles for Apple. Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst with TV[R]EV, said it doesn’t seem like Apple has purchased any library content and so he questioned whether Apple would have enough programming to sustain consumer interest.

“Even with something as robust as HBO, there’s maybe two shows I want to watch and then I’m done,” Wolk said.

Another concern, he said, is that Apple TV is way behind Roku, Amazon and even Chromecast in connected TV device market share. He said that Apple is reportedly working on a less-expensive stick version of Apple TV and suggested that the company should release that simultaneously with its streaming service as a way to attract customers opting for cheaper streaming video devices.

“For a long time, Apple had a real advantage,” Wolk said, noting that products like the iPod and iPad were clearly superior to other options in the market and therefore could get away with charging premium prices.

“It doesn’t seem to have resonated with Apple that the $30 Roku is every bit as good at the $180 Apple TV,” said Wolk. “There’s nothing about [the Apple TV] to justify it being 6x as much.”