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Apple TV Plus is just US$5. Will people pay for it?
[NEW YORK] Tim Cook went into full salesman mode at Apple's promotional event on Tuesday as he revealed the price for a monthly subscription for its streaming service, Apple TV Plus.
"All — all — of these incredible shows for the price of a single movie rental," Mr Cook, Apple's chief executive, said. "This is crazy."
Apple TV Plus is scheduled to make its debut as a competitor to Netflix and Amazon on Nov 1. The cost is US$5 a month. For anyone buying a new iPhone, iPad or Mac laptop, a one-year subscription will be thrown in free.
In the streaming industry, US$5 is a figure that grabs attention.
Disney announced US$7 as the monthly price for its original service, Disney Plus, which has a Nov 12 start date. An Amazon Prime subscription, which includes streaming, is US$10 a month, while Hulu goes for US$6 a month with ads and US$12 without.
CBS All Access costs US$6 with commercials and US$10 without. WarnerMedia's new streaming service, HBO Max, is scheduled to go live next year at no lower than US$15 a month, and Netflix's standard plan costs US$13 a month.
Why is Apple the cheapest of the bunch? One reason is that it will offer much less content than its competitors.
While Netflix has a vast library of material from other studios and seems to unveil a series, special or rom-com every other day, Apple TV Plus will offer roughly a dozen shows in its first wave of programming over the next year.
Disney Plus will be packed to the last pixel with a library of original movies, "Star Wars" films, blockbusters from Marvel Entertainment and Pixar, as well as "The Simpsons" and the many other properties it picked up in its US$71.3 billion purchase of much of the 21st Century Fox entertainment empire.
HBO Max will draw on its vast Warner Bros film archive, which includes "Wonder Woman" and the Harry Potter series, not to mention decades of HBO programming and "Friends".
Apple TV Plus hopes to attract subscribers with a simple sales pitch: by claiming that its shows and movies will be of higher quality than what they'll find elsewhere. As Mr Cook described it as he paced the stage, Apple TV Plus will have "the best movies, comedies, dramas and kids' shows".
In effect, Apple is hoping customers will part with US$5 a month for the same reason they pay for premium cable channels like HBO or Showtime. But that pitch was easier to make in the days before streaming, when there was a stark difference between what viewers could find on basic cable channels and the broadcast networks. Now there are more shows — and a greater variety of shows — than ever before.
To prepare for the Nov 1 debut, the company created an entertainment arm from scratch, installing the Hollywood veterans Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg as top executives. The division has spent well over US$1 billion to develop more than a dozen shows, cutting checks to Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon and JJ Abrams.
One of Apple TV Plus' marquee programmes, "The Morning Show", a drama set in the world of morning television, stars Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell. "See", a fantasy, features Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard. There is also "Dickinson", a quirky comedy with Hailee Steinfeld and Jane Krakowski in lead roles that puts a contemporary spin on the poet Emily Dickinson. Children's programming includes a "Peanuts" series.
Apple said it planned to roll out new shows each month, including a thriller from the director M Night Shyamalan and a series starring Octavia Spencer. In the not too distant future, it will have a slate big enough to rival networks that have been in the business for decades.
The first hurdle will be the reaction of critics and social media users.
Then comes awards season.
Apple's first shows will be eligible for the 2020 Golden Globe Awards; nominees will be announced Dec 9. If Apple is able to storm the Golden Globes stage at the Beverly Hilton on Jan 5, any remaining Hollywood skeptics will have no choice but to consider the tech upstart a major player in entertainment.