Netflix and HBO's uncertainty may give Apple a content opening

Posted:
in General Discussion
Netflix had a bad quarter, and HBO is staring down big philosophical production changes under its new ownership. The pair may create the perfect storm that Apple needs for its upcoming content push.

HBO-turned-Apple star Jason Momoa


Apple's push into original content continues apace, with new announcements arriving seemingly weekly about new deals the company has reached with talent, whether in front of or behind the camera. "See," a sci-fi project starring former "Game of Thrones" actor Jason Momoa and with "Hunger Games" director Francis Lawrence attached, is the latest announced Apple show.

It's one of about two-dozen shows that Apple has in development in relation to its content plans, with many more likely on the way.

It remains very much unclear exactly what distribution scheme will be used by Apple when these shows ultimately arrive. It could be a streaming service in the tradition of Netflix or Hulu, or perhaps shows will be purchased from iTunes, or possibly a combination of both. Reports last month indicated that Apple is considering a subscription bundle that includes Apple Music, News products, and the new shows, but that's far from official.

Whatever form the Apple content push takes, we have a good indication of who its competition is, whether for eyeballs or for Emmy Awards: Netflix, as well as legacy media brands, led by HBO. And both of those are dealing with bad news in recent weeks.

Netflix slowing

Netflix on Monday reported quarterly earnings that missed revenue estimates and significantly fell short of estimates in terms of subscriber additions. The company added 674,000 subscribers in the quarter, compared to estimates of 1.23 million; international subscribers fell short as well. The company also issued a weaker guidance for the next quarter, CNBC reported.

No, this doesn't represent any kind of death knell for Netflix, or even the start of one. But it does show that there may be something of a limit to what's looked for the past couple of years like unbridled momentum on Netflix's part. And if that continues, it could leave Apple an opening.

A New HBO

Meanwhile, as Netflix struggles, one of its key rivals may be heading for a future that makes it look more like Netflix.

Pending one more lawsuit, AT&T's $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner is now done, putting the venerable phone company in charge of the content properties of what's now called Warner Media.

This includes the Warner Brothers movie studio and the Turner networks, as well as its premium, prestige TV arm, HBO. And HBO, in addition to its premium cable home, also runs a standalone subscription streaming service, HBO Now.

According to a report by The New York Times on July 8, a recent town hall held for HBO employees in New York by John Stankey, the AT&T executive who will now oversee HBO post-merger, made clear how the new company envisions HBO.

The Times reported that Stankey told HBO employees that "it's going to be a tough year" and "It's going to be a lot of work to alter and change direction a little bit." This will entail HBO increasing its subscriber base, as well as "the number of hours that viewers spend watching its shows."

The Netflix iPhone app


These orders from above at HBO indicate that just as Netflix jumped into the prestige TV game in order to compete with HBO, HBO's new strategy is become more like Netflix. It looks like HBO wants to saturate the market with more content produced for the same or less money than it is budgeting now. Also, somehow, with this content it wants eyeballs engaged for hours, in a way currently synonymous with Netflix's model.

The question raised by this, however, is whether HBO can maintain its prestigious reputation while producing more quantity. It's doubly challenging for HBO, as its current marquee hit, "Game of Thrones," has only one more season to go before it finishes its run.

What it means for Apple

As Apple enters the content game, the developments with Netflix and HBO leave it a couple of openings. If Netflix subscriber growth continues to slow, it could give Apple an opportunity to gain some of those lost subscriptions, assuming it goes with a subscription model.

Meanwhile, if HBO were to move away from its current emphasis on and reputation for prestige projects, that's a void that Apple may very well move to fill. After all, Apple has already gotten into business with multiple people who were recently part of HBO shows, including "Game of Thrones" veteran Momoa and Reese Witherspoon, who starred in HBO's "Big Little Lies" and is slated to star in an untitled morning show drama for Apple along with Jennifer Aniston.

Eddy Cue at South by Southwest


Eddy Cue, speaking at South by Southwest in March, seemed to indicate that Apple was approaching its content plans with a quality-over-quantity strategy.

"When you think of content, first of all.. great storytelling is important," Cue said. "And, you get great storytelling from big name people, and you get it from new and up-and-comers." He went on to cite Steve Jobs, who formerly headed up a hugely successful movie studio in Pixar.

"We want things that are of great quality," Cue said. "That doesn't mean everything will be a hit, but everything should be very very high quality, and I think that's where we will stand out."

Mission 2019

By the time Apple's planned wave of original shows reaches screens, the the content marketplace may look very different than how it does even today. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu are going to still exist, along with various smaller competitors. And the other 800-pound gorilla is Disney, which is set to launch its own streaming service in 2019.

The future likely doesn't involve a monopoly for any of those competitors; most viewers will likely subscribe to more than one of them. No one knows how it will all shake out, but we do know that Apple has a couple of advantages.

Apple has both a huge customer base, and an astronomical amount of money to spend.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    seankillseankill Posts: 456member
    Going to be tough to keep up with Netflix, some of their content is pretty good. HBO offers a platform without censorship. I don’t have cable so I welcome more avenues of content.

    It will have to be available on platforms that aren’t Apple to get anywhere near Netflix. I know my Apple TV, gen4, kicked the bucket after 1.5 years. I opted not to replace it since it would run $119 or $150; instead, ordered the Fire Stick for $20. Didn’t see much of an advantage, I don’t like airplay except for showing pictures and there are easy work arounds a for that. 
    If I’m going to buy garbage, It is best to buy it cheaply.
    edited July 2018
  • Reply 2 of 11
    Netflix is a unique situation since their viability is entirely dependent on the growth of their streaming service. Apple doesn't have to fund their own content that way, so it doesn't actually matter what happens with Netflix or anyone else. I think the only question is whether or not these types of content creation strategies will really be worth the cost if they're just "added value" types of things for the customer. Is it really that effective in attracting or retaining customers vs. not doing it?
  • Reply 3 of 11
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,476member
    I have DTV and had it since 97, so 21 yrs. Cost went from $60 a month for multiply rooms and middle of the road package, today the same multi-room middle of the road package with DVR and live streaming functionality runs about $105 This is also HD verse SD back 20 yrs ago. I have been playing with streaming devices like ATV and Roku and streaming services like Netflix. I also have Plex Media server in my house that I ripped all my DVD to plus what I have down loaded and use airplay from an IPAD to stream to my ATV.

    Even with all these choices, the streaming solutions have a lot of work, I am still the old fashion channel flipper for live TV, I like bouncing around looking at shows I may not otherwise watch. The whole search feature has lots of work, it does well when you know exactly what you want to watch but, beyond this it can be very problematic. I do not like the need to type on a keyboard in my theater or family room to find something and voice search again is great if you know exactly what you are looking for. I like discovering by flipping changes. 

    I hope Apple will solve this problem soon with streaming since I like to dump DTV, and I want the ability to record locally so I can time shift live content, and I do not like the whole on demand solution that exist today since content owners are so restrictive with on demand content. Netflix is having this issue, each month the have content coming and going which you can watch. Image when you went to Blockbuster and they rotated popular DVD from the store shelves each month.

  • Reply 4 of 11
    The "Netflix had a bad quarter" statement is very over played. Netflix has more subscribers than Apple Music and Spotify combined. HBO might eventually be destroyed by AT&T sadly, but Apple has shown absolutely no interest in making edgy cutting-edge TV to fill that void.
  • Reply 5 of 11
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,141member
    Netflix is a unique situation since their viability is entirely dependent on the growth of their streaming service. Apple doesn't have to fund their own content that way, so it doesn't actually matter what happens with Netflix or anyone else. I think the only question is whether or not these types of content creation strategies will really be worth the cost if they're just "added value" types of things for the customer. Is it really that effective in attracting or retaining customers vs. not doing it?
    It can be a Hobby for Apple, well for a year or two anyway.
  • Reply 6 of 11
    focherfocher Posts: 638member
    Apple should reach out to every single content producer and decision-maker at HBO and offer them jobs. Apple can offer a bigger bank roll than AT&T, and if they offer creative freedom without the choke of AT&T I bet a lot of HBO people would jump ship as their current productions wind down.

    As to Apple not wanting the level of cutting edge content that HBO offers, they could easily brand it separately and place it in a premium "adult" tier.
  • Reply 7 of 11
    I don't expect much from Apple with regards to content. Maybe that's a good thing. To create great art, you need freedom. I can't see a PC company doing anything edgy. I'm sure there will be some great documentaries though.
  • Reply 8 of 11
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,419member
    I think AT&T's ownership is going to be problematic for all of Warner and what was originally Turner Broadcasting.   I actually hope the Government wins the case and stops the merger.  And the comment that AT&T wants to increase the number of hours that people watch HBO demonstrates a complete lack of insight into what HBO is.   Like any subscription service, it doesn't matter if people watch at all.  It only matters if people keep their subscriptions and renew.   But if that means AT&T is going to fund more programming on HBO, great.   

    I expect AT&T to do a lot of cost cutting.  I don't think we're going to see shows in the future with the budgets of "Game of Thrones" or "Westworld".    And AT&T probably cares a lot less about the basic cable business than they do about selling streaming, so my bet is that TCM doesn't survive, since it's not advertising driven.  I also think we'll see far fewer film restorations and I bet they dial back the physical media business substantially. 

    It doesn't bode well when a completely non-creative company buys a creative company.   And AT&T isn't known for treating its employees very well either.


  • Reply 9 of 11
    mavemufcmavemufc Posts: 326member
    Netflix and HBO are just fine and there’s definitely room for Apple to join them on top of the TV World.
    christopher126
  • Reply 10 of 11
    mavemufc said:
    Netflix and HBO are just fine and there’s definitely room for Apple to join them on top of the TV World.
    I like the way you think. :) I have HBONow for a couple of shows and the occasional movie. Netflix is a bit of a nightmare as far as the interface. Can't wait for Apple to show everyone how it should be done! :)

    On a side note, I've been a cable cutter for over 15 years...I'm all-in with Apple TV/iTunes. (I've had just about every ATV since the original.)

    I don't mind paying a couple of dollars more to buy or rent an iTunes movie or series.

    Just like I don't mind paying for a 2017 MacBook, Se, AppleWatch, etc., etc. I'm confident Apple is using a good portion of my money to design and develop fantastic software, hardware and services like the new AirPods! I don't hold onto old hardware. I usually sell it for a $50-$250 and buy the new Apple stuff. When I do the math, I'm usually renting Apple gear for about $10-$50/mo. 

    That may seem a bit naive to some, but I look back on my first iBook, white, 3G laptop (which I loved) and I'm amazed, still, every time I open my 2017 rose gold MacBook!  

    Also, I tried Hulu for the seven day free trial. I canceled it in two days. The commercials were nauseating...I don't want to be bombarded with ads about Taco Bell's new cheesy fries. Ugh! (Are they trying to kill us?)

    Best
  • Reply 11 of 11
    kruegdudekruegdude Posts: 282member
    mavemufc said:
    Netflix and HBO are just fine and there’s definitely room for Apple to join them on top of the TV World.

    Also, I tried Hulu for the seven day free trial. I canceled it in two days. The commercials were nauseating...I don't want to be bombarded with ads about Taco Bell's new cheesy fries. Ugh! (Are they trying to kill us?)

    Best
    Similar setup here, no laptops but two iMacs, Watch, iPads, iPhones and the 4th gen Apple TV. Have been cable tv free for 8 years now. 

    My subscriptions include Netflix, Acorn TV, BritBox and Hulu w/out the ads, all subscribed via iTunes.  I tried Hulus’ ad supported tier for about 1/2 a day. Could. Not. Stand it.  Upgraded to ad free and love it. I usually load up my iTunes account with the 15% off iTunes gift cards so I save a little on the subscriptions that way. 

    I also have a substantial investment in dvds accessible via Plex. Mostly useful when we’re in the RV but find we watch it at home as well. 
Sign In or Register to comment.