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Apple bites into TV, gaming and credit card offerings

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CEO Tim Cook speaking during the launch of Apple TV+ at the Apple HQ on March 25, in Cupertino, California. With appearances by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, Apple lifted the curtain on Apple TV+ that will stream original television shows and movies, among other ambitious offerings.

Cupertino, California

APPLE attempted to reintroduce itself on Monday (Tuesday morning, Singapore time) as an entertainment and financial services company that also makes iPhones as it launched a streaming television service, a credit card and an online gaming arcade.

With appearances by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, the world's second-most valuable technology company lifted the curtain on a television and movie subscription service called Apple TV+ that will stream original television shows and movies.

The star-studded line-up failed to excite investors, however, as Apple shares closed 1.2 per cent lower.

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The company's long-expected plunge into the streaming video war is years behind leaders Netflix and Amazon. Apple left out key details such as pricing, making it difficult to judge how its service will stack up against competitors.

"While Apple may introduce a bigger roster of original content than Amazon and Netflix during their respective launches, the streaming market has arguably already reached a level of saturation and consumer fatigue in the United States," said Colin Gillis, an analyst at Chatham Road Partners.

The programming will come through a revamped television-watching app for users of Apple's 1.4 billion gadgets worldwide, as well as owners of smart TVs and other devices.

Apple is taking a different approach by offering paid "channels" from AT&T's HBO, Lions Gate Entertainment's Starz and CBS Corp's Showtime, alongside its own content.

Its revamped app for subscribing to channels from others will come out in May, but Apple's own original shows will not arrive until autumn, with pricing not yet announced.

Apple said both its TV+ shows and the new version of the TV app will be available in more than 100 countries.

Apple also introduced a credit card, a digital video game arcade, and added hundreds of magazines to its news app at an event at its headquarters.

The launches come as Apple struggles with falling iPhone sales, which has prompted the company to turn more of its attention to services that provide regular subscription revenue. Hollywood celebrities helped debut the revamped television offering. Apple has commissioned programming from Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Winfrey, Spielberg and others.

Winfrey, who announced a global book club and two documentaries, said she was drawn to Apple in part by its reach. "They're in a billion pockets, y'all," she said, referring to Apple's ubiquitous devices.

Alongside its own iPhones, iPads and iMacs, Apple will make the programming widely available through smart TVs and devices from Roku Inc and others, departing from the past where it has tended to keep content exclusively on its own hardware.

Throughout the presentation, Apple executives stressed privacy protections for consumers as they shop and consume content. "The most important point for today was advertising and privacy," said DA Davidson & Co analyst Thomas Forte.

Apple, second only to Microsoft in market value among tech giants, led the event with an announcement that its free news app will now come in a paid-subscription version, called Apple News+, which curates a range of news articles and will include 300 magazines including National Geographic, People, Popular Science, Billboard and the New Yorker. Apple said it would cost US$9.99 a month.

Apple then introduced a titanium, laser-etched Apple Card backed by Goldman Sachs and Mastercard that can track spending across devices and pay daily cashback on purchases.

Mr Cook said Apple Pay will be available in more than 40 countries by the end of the year. The company also introduced Apple Arcade, a game subscription service that will work on phones, tablets and desktop computers and include games from a range of developers. REUTERS