They may not be in the Steve Jobs Theater today at Apple HQ, but Reed Hastings and Jeff Bezos will certainly be watching when Tim Cook unveils the company’s new streaming service that the home of the iPhone has been cooking up under lock and key the past two years.
Having seen their companies dominate the latest evolution of the entertainment industry for most of the past decade, the Netflix and Amazon CEOs are now facing a streaming newbie who is coming in aggressively to challenge them for the throne. Although Hastings gave off an air of welcoming the competition when asked about Apple’s new subscription streaming service at a recent Netflix shindig, the fact is the deep pockets, long reach and brand behemoth that is Apple will distinctly reset the table from Day 1 – and that’s before Disney, WarnerMedia, Comcast and others flick the switch on their own new streaming services later this year.
Additionally, no matter which form or platform Apple decides to launch its multi-pronged service off of at this morning’s invite-only 10 AM PT “It’s Showtime” event in Cupertino, CA, the Zack Van Amburg- and Jamie Erlicht-led entertainment effort already has a deep bench of approximately $1 billion in ordered original content either ready to roll or in the pipeline.
By deep bench, that’s Dream Team-level heights with programming from Oprah Winfrey, Crazy Rich Asians helmer Jon Chu, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Brian Grazer, NBA star Kevin Durant, Outlander chief Ronald D. Moore, M. Night Shyamalan, J.J. Abrams, 24 EP Howard Gordon, Captain America Chris Evans and Aquaman Jason Momoa.
In terms of how the newest addition to the increasingly cramped streaming world will actually work, the sturdiest speculation is that in just over two hours, Cook will tell the 1,000 luminaries packing the Jobs Theater and those watching online that they actually already have access via the TV app long available on Apple devices. The home to Carpool Karaoke: The Series and numerous shows and films to rent or buy since its 2016 launch, a revamped version of the installed app is likely to see at least a couple of new series every few weeks, I hear.
Taking the more-the-merrier approach and lifting a page from Amazon Prime’s packages, the Apple streamer also looks to offer a bundle service with access to content from WarnerMedia’s HBO, the BBC’s Britbox, Starz and CBS All Access and Showtime.
Apple’s own shows and features will likely be offered free to iPhone, laptop and iPad owners, at least initially.
Drawing on that pre-existing strength of the over 1.4 billion devices consumers around the world already have in their pockets, on their desks or night tables, Cook is also expected today to provide more details of the new news service Apple is firing up and what titans of journalism will be on board. The Bezos-owned Washington Post has made it public that it will be an avowed no-show on that front.
Of course, with a number of Hollywood power players in attendance at Monday’s presentation and many having joined a more intimate get-together with Apple execs last night, the fact is no one outside Cook’s tight team truly knows what’s coming. “You know as much as me,” one EP told Deadline with a laugh this weekend of what the Apple streaming service might look like. “Everyone is going to find out together,” another content kingpin admitted just hours before today’s event.
“This is the way Apple operates, no leaks, no info until they are precisely ready,” an insider from a competing streamer declared, noting how other product launches like the iPhone or iPad by the tech company have been divulged over the decades.
In that mode and with a cheeky nod to the anticipation of today’s announcement, Apple has been livestreaming a darkened Jobs Theater for the past day. Always responsive, social media has been bursting with speculation of what the maps and other images on the screen could reveal about what’s coming.
One thing we know for sure is that Netflix won’t be involved. Despite having been offered a seat at the Apple table, the Oscar-winning game-changer will not be a part of any such bundle. “We want to have people watch our content in our service,” Hastings stridently stated earlier this month.
So does Tim Cook, it seems.