Apple’s recent Special Event carried with it some exciting news, glitter and eye candy, and some disappointing lack of details.
The presentation stage became filled with Hollywood gliterati, and Apple paraded a diverse group of employees to show off the company’s latest services offerings. The future appears to be all about content subscriptions. One item I expected turned up missing.
Cable TV, 1999
Apple announced and launched Apple News+– an add-one to Apple News, but with far more content, and a subscription fee. Announced but not launched was Apple TV+ (think original content), Apple Arcade (think games), and Apple Card (think credit card).
What was missing?
The company did not launch a counter to all the new and trendy streaming services as epitomized by YouTube TV, Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, AT&T, Hulu, DirecTV, CBS, Amazon, Netflix, and many others.
I’ve looked at each one, tried a couple, and came away with the same response. All of them, including my favorite, YouTube TV, are packaged much like a 21st century version of cable TV, circa 1999. Most of them have content that can be seen on dozens of network channels, a mix of local channels, some even have their own exclusive video content, a few different tiers, and they all have a monthly price tag.
That’s not Apple TV Channels and Apple TV+ and both combined appear to be an odd mix of the list above.
Why didn’t Apple simply copy what Google did with YouTube TV?
First and traditionally, Apple doesn’t just copy what competitors do already, and second, it doesn’t look as if there is much money in bundling such video streaming content into a package.
Let’s use Google’s YouTube TV as an example. As of now, the company’s video streaming runs in most U.S. markets and has about 1-million customers.
Impressive, no? No.
Hulu already has 2-million customers. DirecTV has over 20-million subscribers. By contrast, Netflix as about 140-million monthly subscribers.
Numbers tell the tale. 1-million YouTube TV customers at about $40 per month mean monthly revenue of $40-million and annual revenue of barely $500-million. That’s chump change and Apple is well behind the streaming curve already.
Contrast that revenue to approximately $10 per month for an average Netflix subscription, times 140-million subscribers, and annual revenue tops $16-billion. Apple didn’t bother to compete with Google’s YouTube TV because there is no money to be made in such a fragmented industry.
Instead, Apple chose to become the platform that allows you to view whatever you want, whenever you want, and wherever you want, but with a bunch of exclusive content thrown into the mix. I like YouTube TV, especially the built-in DVR function, but I have to admit, it’s little more than a mobile version of high quality video that mimics cable TV from 1999.
Apple was wise to stay out of that business.