CUPERTINO (CBS SF / AP) — Apple launched its new streaming service with a touch of Hollywood glitter Monday, bringing to the stage a lineup that included Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell and Steven Spielberg.
To a roar from the crowd gathered at its Cupertino headquarters, CEO Tim Cook unveiled the service called Apple TV Plus, which will house original shows and movies and will attempt to compete with Netflix, Amazon and cable TV itself.
Among the upcoming programs on the new Apple service will be Winfrey-created documentaries; a show about TV morning talk shows, starring Aniston, Witherspoon and Carell; and a sci-fi show called “Amazing Stories” from Spielberg.
The iPhone has long been Apple’s marquee product and main money maker, but sales are starting to decline. The company is pushing digital subscriptions as it searches for new growth.
The company also laid out the details of its news subscription service, Apple News Plus, and a new credit card.
The news service costs $10 a month and includes roughly 300 magazines and a handful of major newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. Missing from the announcement were other major newspaper publishers, who have reportedly been wary of Apple’s terms. Apple says advertisers won’t track readers inside the app. That distinguishes it from Facebook and Google, the other major online news hubs.
The company also said it is launching a MasterCard credit card called Apple Card. It will integrate Apple Maps to show users where they spend money, but at the same time, Apple says it won’t know where you spend or where.
It won’t have any late fees or annual fees and offer 2 percent cash back. Other cards also offer cash-back rewards.
But the biggest splash was its video service. Apple also noted Monday that its Apple TV app brings together different streaming services and traditional cable subscriptions.
Netflix, which didn’t show up during Apple’s presentation, turned “binge watching” into a worldwide phenomenon several years ago. Apple’s new video service is expected to have original TV shows and movies that reportedly cost it more than $1 billion — far less than Netflix and HBO spend every year.
Making must-have TV shows and movies that are watchable on any device has turned Netflix into a force in both Silicon Valley and Hollywood.
“There are bidding wars over a lot of these pieces, for example the “Morning Show” with Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, Apple landed as a result of a bidding war. Talent is in such demand because there are these companies with so much money, like Apple, Netflix and Amazon, with gigantic billfolds to open up and shower on these creators,” said Joan Solsman, senior social media reporter for CNet.
It’s a great time to be a Hollywood creator right now.“
But Apple remained focused on making on gadgets: iPhones, iPads, computers and its Apple TV streaming box for TVs. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs began toying with the idea of building a powerful TV business, but he couldn’t pull it off before his death in 2011. It has taken his successor, CEO Tim Cook, nearly eight years to draw up the script that the company will now try to execute.
“Apple is very late to this game,” eMarketer analyst Paul Verna said. “Netflix has become the gold standard in how to create and distribute content, using all the data they have about their viewers.”
Netflix’s prowess has attracted 139 million subscribers worldwide. But Apple will have several other deep-pocketed competitors fighting for consumers’ dollars. Amazon has also become a formidable force in video streaming. Walt Disney Co. is launching its own service this year, armed with an imposing library that became more formidable with its purchase of 21st Century Fox’s films and TV series. AT&T is debuting another streaming service built around HBO.
“We definitely know that Apple is positioning itself as a more family friendly option. Certainly, other services like Netflix made a name for themselves that comes with racier, more explicit elements. But, Apple wants to be a Disney-like family-friendlier brand. And that’s caused a little bit of conflict from what’s been reported with some of the creators working on these programs,” said Solsman.
Apple has plenty of money to spend, though, with about $245 billion in cash and marketable securities. It must prove itself attractive to Hollywood even without a track record for supporting high-quality programming and then ensuring it gets widely seen.
As part of its efforts to make quick connections, Apple hired two longtime Sony television executives, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, in 2017. They have signed up stars such as Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Sofia Coppola, who spoke during a video Monday.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.