Apple has launched a dedicated TV app within its latest iOS and OSTV update. The new app enables users to switch between content providers (provided you have downloaded the relevant application) without having to switch from the TV app.
The name change of the app is interesting in itself. The change from ‘Video’ to ‘TV’ suggests a shift in ambition for Apple. Video has connotations of an old DVD library or user-generated content; TV in this new age implies professional, long form content which hooks in users. One might argue that Apple is readying itself for a concerted effort in expanding its influence in an area that has long been on its hit list.
Apple has three ways to compete within the connected content space; connectivity (infrastructure to access internet services), functionality (platform to find content) and content (ownership of programming). Given the lack of exclusive content, Apple is using premium functionality as its means of differentiation. Users can stop watching a film or programme halfway through and pick it up later on a different device and in a different location. The service will also provide a curated feed of content based on recommendations. Apple are playing to their strengths in creating a destination for TV viewers and will continue to make attempts to use the user interface (UI) as a primary differentiator.
Currently (December 2017) there are ten content providers available via the interface. Big hitters including Amazon, BBC and ITV (note, no Netflix) share space with more niche offerings such as Shudder and Mubi. Apple’s content portfolio is divided; iTunes purchases are included within the TV app whereas their own content offering (Carpool Karaoke, Planet of the Apps etc.) remain on the Apple Music platform.
Linear content is rumoured to be on Apple’s roadmap. They demonstrated a live sports feed in September with the example of a live game American Football broadcasted from ESPN. Whilst the service remains a purely on demand play, Apple are less concerned with EPG prominence. We are interested in seeing how live TV is integrated into the service – in all likelihood there’ll be a move away from the traditional channel listing as Apple has no incentive to stick with the grid. In the latest attempt to integrate live and on-demand, Apple will hope they are more successful than attempts made by previous tech giants (e.g. the now defunct Google TV and the Xbox One Guide).
What does this mean for everyone else? Well, for content providers, it will be the niche offerings that benefit the most. Whilst established players such as the BBC and ITV gain another means of discovery, it will be the niche brands which are placed on an equal footing.
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