Apple pivot led by star-packed video service

CALIFORNIA: With Hollywood stars galore, Apple unveiled its streaming video plans on Monday along with news and game subscription offerings as part of an effort to shift its focus to digital content and services to break free of its reliance on iPhone sales.
Director Steven Spielberg, TV host Oprah Winfrey and Hollywood stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carrell made appearances at the event that brings Apple into direct competition with Netflix and the rest of the entertainment sector.
“We all want to be heard, but we also need to listen… to be able to harness our hopes and dreams and heal our divisions,” Winfrey told a packed audience in the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple’s campus in Silicon Valley.
“That is why I have joined forces with Apple. The Apple platform allows me to do what I do, in whole new way.” The Apple TV+ service, an on-demand, ad-free subscription service, will launch this year in 100 countries, the company said.
“We believe deeply in the power of creativity,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said.
“Great stories can change the world. We feel we can contribute something important to our culture and to our society through great storytelling.” Apple revealed only a few of the programmes to launch but announced it was working with celebrities on both sides of the camera including Octavia Spencer, JJ Abrams, Jason Momoa and M Night Shyamalan.
The new content will be available on an upgraded Apple TV app, which will be on smart television sets and third-party platforms including Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV.
Apple will also allow consumers to subscribe to third-party services like HBO and Starz from the same application. The cost of the service, along with financial deals with content creators, were not disclosed.
“These people could go where the money is, but they are going where Apple is,” Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said of the star power on display at the event.
She expected Apple TV+ to be more of a channel at its streaming video service, similar to an HBO, than to be a “one-stop-shop” that would stand alone.
Apple is aiming to leverage its position with some 900 million people worldwide who use at least one of its devices. But some suggested Apple’s path may be harder than anticipated.
“I don’t want to know which famous people Apple has signed up. I want to know if the annual budget is $1bn or $10bn,” tweeted Benedict Evans, a Silicon Valley investor and blogger. “Getting audience for a TV platform is like orbital mechanics — the only way to go up is to burn more fuel.” While some view Apple’s move as a reinvention of the iconic company, analyst Richard Windsor said on his Radio Free Mobile blog that the video service “is very unlikely to ever be big enough to wean Apple off of its long addiction to selling hardware.” Meanwhile, a new Apple News+ service at a cost of $9.99 per month will include The Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, digital news sites and more than 300 magazine titles including Rolling Stone, Time, National Geographic Wired and The New Yorker.
“We think Apple News+ will be great for customers and great for publishers,” Cook said.
Apple News+ was launched in the US and Canada in English and French and will be available later this year in Britain and Australia, the company said. — AFP