Editor's Corner—With Samsung deal, Apple is finally dropping video distribution hints

New photos of Apple's rumored cheaper iPhone X variant have supposedly emerged (Image Nikada / iStockPhoto)
Apple’s influx of smart TV partnerships ahead of CES clearly show the company is becoming increasingly willing to play nice with third parties. (Nikada/iStockPhoto)

After more than a year of amassing original content deals to fill out its upcoming streaming video service, Apple has potentially revealed a hint about how it will distribute to the masses.

Spoiler alert: It may involve teaming up with some bitter rivals. At least that’s the feeling I get from Apple’s new deal that will put iTunes on Samsung smart TVs. 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. Samsung said the new iTunes app will be integrated with its smart TV features including Universal Guide, Bixby and Search.

“We look forward to bringing the iTunes and AirPlay 2 experience to even more customers around the world through Samsung Smart TVs, so iPhone, iPad and Mac users have yet another way to enjoy all their favorite content on the biggest screen in their home,” said Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet Software and Services at Apple, in a statement.

Although Apple doesn’t specifically mention offering original programming through its iTunes app on Samsung TVs, it stands to reason that it would use the partnership to expand the potential audience for its streaming service. It’s also likely that Apple will strike up similar deals with other video platform providers. After all, Apple did recently make its Apple Music streaming service available on Amazon Echo devices.

While Samsung said that the iTunes Movies and TV Shows app will only be available on its smart TVs, Apple has set smart TV streaming tech deals with other companies this week. Both LG and Vizio will include AirPlay 2 support in their upcoming smart TVs, meaning Apple customers will be able to play content from their Apple devices on LG and Vizio big screens.

Update: Sony is also making some of its TVs compatible with AirPlay 2.

More deals like the Samsung smart TV agreement and Vizio and LG AirPlay agreements could put to rest doubts that industry analysts have expressed about the viability of Apple’s video streaming service. In September, Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst for TV[R]EV, said limiting the video service to only Apple devices would hurt its chances.

“If it's not an app on Roku/Fire TV/smart TVs, no one is going to bother to figure out how to watch it,” Wolk said.

Although no Apple deals with rival streaming set-top device makers like Amazon or Roku have surfaced yet, there are signs it could happen. About one year ago, Apple finally allowed Amazon’s Prime Video app onto its Apple TV.

Apple’s influx of smart TV partnerships ahead of CES clearly show the company is becoming increasingly willing to play nice with third parties. But they also represent Apple’s growing reliance on service revenues as device sales level off.

Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a letter to investors, warning them that Apple had to lower revenue guidance for its fiscal first quarter. The company blamed the revenue reduction on lower-than-expected hardware sales but pointed to service revenue records. Although service revenues for Apple reached an all-time high of $10 billion during the fourth quarter, most of Apple’s revenue still comes from device sales.

However, the growth story for Apple may lie within its various services, of which subscription video could soon become a big contributor—especially if Apple continues showing a willingness to let its original shows and films live outside of the Apple device ecosystem. — Ben | @fierce__video