Deeper Dive—Apple TV+ is doing everything except the obvious

Apple TV CBS All Access
Apple bought itself a lot of time to win over streaming video consumers by giving away a free year of Apple TV+ with the purchase of practically any Apple device. (Apple)

Apple is pulling out all the stops to build Apple TV+ into a household streaming service except for the most obvious thing: building a library of content.

Augmented reality may be the next feature that Apple TV+ rolls out to keep its subscribers interested. According to a new report from Bloomberg, the company is planning to introduce a feature next year that will allow users to access AR content related to Apple TV+ shows through their iOS devices.

Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at TV[R]EV, said the reported AR plans are just the latest baffling TV move from the tech giant.

“I don’t know what they are thinking. No one wants AR content. If there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that people want to watch TV when they are watching TV, not buy Jennifer Aniston’s sweater or play an AR game,” he said.

The AR rumor – which seems credible given the amount of money Apple has spent developing and acquiring tech in the AR/VR space – arrived not long after Apple officially began selling a heavily discounted service bundle with CBS All Access and Showtime for Apple TV+ subscribers. According to Bloomberg, the CBS All Access/Showtime deal could be the opening salvo in a larger service bundling effort dubbed “Apple One.”

Lightshed analyst Rich Greenfield said that by bundling Apple TV+ with other services, Apple can meaningfully lower churn for its SVOD. However, it’s unclear how effective the bundles could be in attracting new Apple TV+ subscribers. And, as Wolk pointed out, the CBS All Access/Showtime offer is a very good deal but it may be outdated soon after ViacomCBS rolls out its rebranded and expanded All Access.

Apple bought itself a lot of time to win over streaming video consumers by giving away a free year of Apple TV+ with the purchase of practically any Apple device. The first rounds of those free trials are set to expire not long after the new iPhones arrive in October and, according to Bloomberg, Apple is thinking about offering a similar promotion but with a shorter timeline.

Apple TV+ has already had some success with its original content; nine months after its launch, the service has already scored 18 Emmy nominations across six of its programs. I’ve personally recommended “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” to people and I seriously doubt I’m the only one doing word-of-mouth promotion for Apple TV+. So, the service is hitting some of the same notes that helped make Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and others into primary streaming destinations.

The difference is, though, that Apple TV+ doesn’t have much else for people to do once they get in the door. At least, not in the same way that Netflix pulls you in with “Stranger Things” and then gets you to stick around for a movie or two and endless reruns of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Apple may be in the market for a modest library of content. According to a Bloomberg report from May, the company is accepting pitches from studios about licensing content and has already bought some older shows and movies for its service. However, the report suggested that Apple TV+ will remain focused on its original content and that the executives in charge of the service aren’t going after any big franchises.

For now, Apple TV+ appears content to push its own limited slate of originals, to be an aggregator for other streaming services and to throw in some next-gen tech flourishes here and there. The strategy could pay off and it might be the best option considering how much of the best content is no longer being licensed but rather being pinned to legacy media’s disparate direct-to-consumer plays. But for a company like Apple with so much cash to throw, it just seems like buying a stockpile of content would be a lot easier than reinventing the wheel.