Apple held an announcement event today that focused around new services the company plans to launch. The majority of the event revolved around movies and television shows and it was revealed that a new version of Apple’s TV app would be coming to Amazon Fire TV devices. This app, which is at the forefront of Apple’s entire TV offering, should give Fire TV owners access to movies and shows purchased through iTunes, as well as content from Apple Channels and Apple TV+, which are two new TV services that Apple announced today.
Apple first launched their TV app on the Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad back in 2016. Much like the Fire TV interface, Apple’s TV app serves as a central hub where content from multiple streaming services is aggregated together in one place. Apple has explicitly said that they see the TV app as the future home screen for their Apple TV streaming media player, but their hesitation to actually make that change likely stems from their inability to integrate all major streaming services, most notably Netflix, into the app.
The upcoming update to Apple’s TV app expands the platform to include more content. It will feature a “Watch Now” section with your recent and recommended content, as well as a Movies, TV Shows, Sports, and Kids section. A Library section will presumably list the content you’ve purchased and own. It’s unknown how different the app coming to Fire TVs will be from the one shown off today, which was running on an Apple TV.
The new app will be coming to all of Apple’s devices, including the Mac, which has not had access to any version of the app yet. Apple will also be releasing the app onto smart TVs, starting with Samsung TVs and later expanding to Sony, LG, Vizio, and others. Most surprisingly, Apple announced that their TV app will also be coming to Amazon Fire TV devices and Roku devices. Very notably missing from the list of platforms getting the app is Android TV devices, like the NVIDIA Shield TV, Android phones, and Google’s Chromecast.
In addition to announcing the new TV app, Apple also announced new content services that can be accessed through the app. The first is Apple Channels, which appears to be a service identical to Amazon’s Prime Video Channels. Customers will be able to subscribe to individual networks, such as HBO, Showtime, Starz, and CBS, through Apple’s TV app. The biggest differentiator between Apple Channels and Prime Video Channels is that Apple’s offering does not require you to be a member of any service as a prerequisite. To subscribe to Prime Video Channels you must be a Prime member. With Roku also now offering channel subscriptions without a prerequisite, it seems unnecessary for Amazon to still require Prime membership to subscribe to channels.
The other new Apple TV service, which Apple spent the majority of their presentation on, is called Apple TV+. This is essentially their competitor to Amazon Prime Video, which will offer original content for a subscription fee. Apple is expected to spend $2 billion on the production of original content for the new service. While that’s a decent amount to spend right off the bat for a new service, it’s nowhere near what Netflix, HBO, and even Amazon are spending on original content. For comparison, Amazon spent $1.3 billion in 2015, $3 billion in 2016, and the number has been climbing each year since.
Apple TV+ already has a list of significant Hollywood talent making the original content, of whom many were present and on stage at Apple’s event. Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, M. Night Shyamalan, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, Jason Momoa, Alfre Woodard, Kumail Nanjiani, and Sara Bareilles are just a few of the big names that have already cut a deal to make content for the new service.
Pricing and release dates for Apple TV+ or its content were not revealed. The new Apple TV app will be released on Apple devices in May and will be coming to other platforms throughout the year. I expect that we won’t see an Apple TV app released for the Fire TV until at least the fall.