Apple’s Stream Won’t Drown Rivals

An Apple TV+ trailer for its sci-fi ‘See’ series with Jason Momoa was shown at Apple’s event Tuesday.

Photo:

stephen lam/Reuters

Sept. 11, 2019 1:33 pm ET

Apple
Inc.


AAPL 3.18%

appeared to make a very un-Apple-like move with the low price of its coming TV streaming service. The iPhone maker actually had little choice.

At its event Tuesday used mainly to showcase this year’s new devices, Apple also announced pricing and launch details for its TV+ offering. The service will launch on Nov. 1 for $4.99 a month, though a year of it will be included free for anyone buying a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod Touch. That puts Apple’s TV+ about 44% below the cheapest offering from

Netflix

and about 29% below the planned launch price of Disney+, which itself drew attention for aggressive pricing. But the services aren’t really comparable. Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and

Amazon.com

offer their own self-produced content as well as a wide range of shows and movies licensed from Hollywood studios.

Disney

owns one of the strongest libraries in the business that includes the “Star Wars” and Marvel properties.

By contrast, Apple’s service will be limited to its own shows. Some of those will debut with the service in November, including a sci-fi series called “See” starring “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa and a dramatic series starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston. Others will come later. Apple is certainly sparing no expense; each episode of “See” is costing the company nearly $15 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. But Apple is still very late to streaming, and commanding a premium price for a limited service of unknown quality was always going to be a stretch. A bigger question is how TV+ will affect Apple’s overall business. The low price and first-year giveaway means it will likely provide little near-term lift to the company’s vital service revenue stream. The high cost of its programming also means it will offer little-to-no contribution to service gross margins, which typically are higher than the corporate average. But the tie-in with new devices could end up helping sales of those products—and build an audience base that will stick around after the first year if they like what they see. Regardless, it will take some time before Apple’s streaming service proves itself a blockbuster. Write to Dan Gallagher at dan.gallagher@wsj.com

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