Streaming video is where everyone wants to be, and the newest entry is a modern take on portraying a hungry zombie, desperate to return to its old life and consuming the living as a poor substitute for true life force. Yes, Apple Music is entering the video business. Oh, and Netflix has a cool new show with Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant!
That was a wee bit mean, but the point is that Netflix has had success in the streaming video market that I don’t see Apple replicating. Netflix has essentially become a network unto itself, where you can flip between a dramedy like “Orange is the New Black”, a reboot of a beloved sitcom in “One Day at a Time”, relive the 80’s with “Stranger Things”, get your anglophile fix with “The Crown” and enjoy a show about Drew Barrymore as a zombie realtor in the suburbs in the upcoming “Santa Clarita Diet”. Their success isn’t an accident, they have spent a long time building a deep bench of shows to appeal to a tremendous number of demographics, and on just about any device that has a screen. More importantly, Netflix isn’t afraid to take risks on their shows. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was on the reject pile from NBC, but thrived on Netflix, for example. And, seriously, Netflix is heavily promoting a show that involves Drew Barrymore snacking on a dude’s arm in the trailer, and it’s somehow not a horror show.
I see three issues with Apple entering the streaming space, two practical and one more cultural. From a practical standpoint, it makes no sense to roll video under the auspices of Apple Music, unless they plan to rename it as Apple Streaming or something similar. Otherwise, I can’t see content creators lining up to play second fiddle to the music side, especially when Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon are all standing by with wallets wide open. Second, so far the “original content” coming from Apple is…lackluster at best. There’s a drama from Dr Dre, and a program about app development hosted by Gwyneth Paltrow. That isn’t going to get people to jump into another streaming service, especially when you consider that Amazon led with a splashy “vote on these pilots” rollout and Netflix started with the cult favorite “Arrested Development” and followed it a month later with “Orange is the New Black”. Both companies offered interesting and compelling choices that would lead a curious subscriber to give it a shot, but there’s very little in Apple’s rumored content so far that is remotely on the same level.
Then there’s a larger, more philosophical issue. What is Apple, Inc? Are they a hardware company or a content maker? iOS is excellent, but iCloud is dreadful, and iBooks seems to be mostly dead. Meanwhile, the hardware side has also been a mixed bag as of late, with complaints about the Mac line and concerns that the iPhone is starting to look a little stale. Adding original content into the mix further dilutes what, exactly, Apple wants to be as they move forwards. And even if they can define what they want to be, are they willing to take the risks and put their names on the controversial, gross, or offbeat content that they’ll need to really drive subscriber growth?
Look, I could be completely wrong, and Apple might have an amazing plan up their sleeves. But this rumor feels more like a “me too, me too!” than a flagship product in the making.
Also, could you really imagine Tim Cook introducing this trailer at WWDC ;):
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to clear my calendar on February 3rd … though I might leave red meat off the menu!