Version 4.0 of Apple’s TV ‘bundle’ is the most muddled yet

Steve Jobs’ original idea was simplicity itself.

From The Information ($):

Apple is considering creating a single subscription offering that would encompass its original TV shows, music service and magazine articles, two people familiar with the company’s plans told The Information…

The new subscription offering starts to answer the question of how Apple plans to make its slate of original shows available. Apple, which hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack van Amburg from Sony Pictures last June, reportedly has set a $1 billion budget for content acquisition and programming for 2018. While well below the $5 billion Amazon is spending and Netflix’s $8 billion-plus budget, the sum is a big new bet for a company that has always shied away from buying content, relying on extensive partnerships with television and movie studios with iTunes…

But questions remain about Apple’s ultimate TV distribution strategy, which is overseen by software and services chief, Eddy Cue. It isn’t clear if Apple would roll out some of its original programming for free initially and then bundle it with the other services, the people said. The discussions at Apple are still ongoing about what the subscription service ultimately will look like and could change, they said.

My take: Steve Jobs’ original idea was a best-of-TV package that let you buy only the shows you watched and not the 800 channels you didn’t. When the cable monopolies declined to play ball, Apple tried to get the TV programmers—Fox, CBS and ABC—to put together a “skinny bundle” of content it could sell for a relatively low monthly fee. Those negotiations collapsed, according to the Hollywood press, under the weight of Eddy Cue’s arrogance. Last Spring, Cue was pitching HBO, Showtime and Starz on a best-of-premium-cable bundle. That was before Apple hired Erlicht and Amburg and started rolling its own.

Now somebody at Apple is shopping the idea of bundling Apple-branded TV series (available, presumably, only inside Apple’s walled garden) with TV, music, books and news anybody can stream from anywhere. How’s that going to work?


  1. Jonathan Mackenzie said:
    I thought they might do this, and I am not sure what doesn’t make sense about it.

    They could roll their video content into Apple Music, call it “Apple Music Plus” or whatever silly name they wanted to give it, and use it to drive subscriptions. Can’t see what’s mysterious or unworkable about this approach.

    You can get Apple music on Android, so why not Apple’s video content?

    They could choose to charge a premium for the added video service or not.

    If they used the video content merely as a differentiator from competing music services, they’d have a compelling package. All they need is one hit show that someone wants to see that convinces them to move over from Pandora or Spotify. Once converted to Apple Music, they are unlikely to go back.

    If Apple promotes its own music service with video they way Amazon uses video to promote Prime, they’d have a monster.

    If subscription growth is what Apple wants, a bundled package makes a great deal of sense to me. And it would solve the problem of not having enough content to stand alone as a video channel.

    This doesn’t sound muddled to me. It’s sounds like the right move. Maybe I’m missing something.

    June 28, 2018
    • To me, this feels like iTunes all over again: a clean machine with a simple mission that’s grown top-heavy and confusing from all the new services bolted to it.

      Just within Apple Music, I’m still having trouble sorting out which music is on my device, which music I own that’s parked in the cloud, which music Apple is streaming to me from its library and where the highest-fidelity version is stored. Even Apple can’t keep it straight. Songs have started to show up in my music library that I swear I never asked for!

      June 28, 2018
      • David Emery said:
        I guess that explains the ’70s Disco music on PED’s phone 🙂 🙂

        June 28, 2018
        • 70s disco? You made me look. I do have Donna Summers’ Last Dance and a couple of Pointer Sisters songs (Jump, I’m so excited). But that’s about it. My musical tastes were set in the 60s.

          June 28, 2018
      • Robert LoCascio said:
        I completely agree PED. Apple Music is confusing and, at times, takes the fun out of listening to my music library (let’s not discuss the additional frustration when asking Siri to help out). I’m an Apple devotee since the the Apple IIc days, but I am having a harder time not complaining out loud when iTunes (Apple Music) does something that leaves me scratching my head. Should this all signal the beginning of the end for Eddie? Just saying…

        June 28, 2018
      • Jonathan Mackenzie said:
        Thanks for the clarification. You’ll get no argument from me that iTunes the app is a mess. But to me that’s separate from the idea of bundling video in with Apple Music.

        iTunes is an app. Apple Music is the subscription service that runs through that app. They need to fix iTunes. This is true regardless of what they do with video content.

        June 28, 2018
  2. Gregg Thurman said:
    “Apple is considering creating a single subscription offering that would encompass its original TV shows, music service, and magazine articles, two people familiar with the company’s plans told The Information…”

    I’m surprised that anybody is surprised that Apple is looking at options for the future. To be looking at bundling is only natural.

    Frankly, I see an audio/visual bundle at $20 (no matter the number of original movies included) as a good value proposition.

    June 28, 2018
  3. Mark Visnic said:
    Eddy Cue inspires zero confidence. The sooner he is gone, the better.

    July 2, 2018

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