Apple + Cinema = What Exactly?

Jason Wolfson Streaming Wars

As Apple is wont to do from time-to-time (but not always), a few weeks ago they announced an arguably bold move. Widely reported across all trade and business press, Apple will roll out feature-length films in theaters before releasing them on its streaming service Apple TV+.

Unlike Netflix and others, Apple seems to be focused on highlighting their role in creativity – films will be largely arthouse-esque – versus a focus on creating an additional, formidable revenue stream.

While the jury is still largely out on the news until it actually materializes (their first major theatrical release may not drop until mid-2020), it certainly warrants further examination, as there’s no shortage of competition in the space. A few questions to consider:

  • Did Apple just jump out in front of Netflix by negotiating themselves into a prime position with theater owners over exclusivity rights and lag time?
  • Did Apple in essence throw the cinema business (which has been in a slow-motion death spiral) a small lifeline, that they might actually need?
  • Did Apple foolishly place a bet on an industry which has, over time, less and less relevant to the American consumer? The other side of the coin is – with the relative strength of Apple, could they actually reverse the course of cinema with the strength of its proposed content?
  • Will the prospect of movies help to attract interest in Apple’s subscription streaming service Apple TV+., as it tries to go head-to-head with Netflix, Amazon and Walt Disney Co. who all have deeper programming libraries?

As with most things surrounding Apple, they do an outstanding job of shrouding most of it in mystery, until of course the exact moment they want the world to know. Watch this space – tumultuous changes in both the streaming and cinema worlds are far from over.

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