ITEM: Apple TV launched a new app last week that promises a unified experience for discovering and accessing TV shows and movies from multiple apps – except for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which is annoying some people on the internet.
The new TV app (which is called “TV”, by the way, and will be available in December in the US) essentially centralizes access to Apple TV content and apps, and improves discoverability of new content. The TV app will be available for Apple TV, iPhone and iPad, and will sync everything between devices so viewers can start a video on one device, pause and resume watching on another Apple device.
It also introduces a new Siri feature for Apple TV called Live Tune-In that lets viewers tune in directly to live news and sporting events across their apps with single voice commands.
From the release:
Siri is now aware of live sporting events across apps so users can simply say things like, “Watch the Stanford game” or “Which games are on right now?” Siri knows additional details of the games, can provide live scores and can take viewers directly to the live stream within the app that’s carrying it. Viewers can also tune directly to live video by just saying the name of the app, for example “Watch CBS News” without having to navigate to the live stream from within the app.
However, a glaring omission for many pundits and at least one Wall Street analyst is the absence of popular streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
The latter is no real surprise since Amazon has never developed an app for Apple TV anyway (although it has done so for the iPhone and iPad), and won’t even sell the Apple TV hardware on its e-commerce site.
But Netflix has become a popular global powerhouse of popular self-produced content – and it also has Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars movies. Viewers can still access Netflix on Apple TV – but not via the new app.
This is symptomatic of an even bigger problem with Apple’s TV strategy, according to Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves [via Business Insider]:
The biggest problem Pacific Crest sees with Apple’s TV strategy is that it is “not meaningfully different than competitors products” and there’s no incentive for the big players in the space – like Netflix or Amazon – to share data or content with Apple.
Apple’s TV app does integrate with HBO, Showtime, CBS, and its iTunes video store, but it does not include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or YouTube, which Hargreaves points out are the three most-consumed video services in the United States. “The gap in consumption between these services and the ones included in Apple’s app is massive,” he writes.
That may be so, and certainly streaming users have been complaining for years that they can’t get every single streaming content service in one unified box easy-to-use box. But those expectations run up against the reality of content licensing and platform competition.
As Zach Epstein at BGR points out, Netflix is sitting on a trove of viewer data that is so valuable that it’s not going to let someone like Apple (who is technically a competitor) get access to it unless they’re sure the tradeoffs are worth it. (According to Wired, Netflix is opting out of the December launch of the TV app but still “evaluating” the possibility of joining later.)
So never mind the dithering over the absence of Netflix – what arguably matters more is that Apple’s TV app provides a better, easier way to find content across multiple apps (assuming it works as advertised). The success of streaming video depends in part of providing an experience as good as or better than cable TV for viewers who are used to the cable-TV model. Apple TV’s interface has gotten mixed reviews in the past, but CNET reports the TV app is an improvement in terms of serving as a meta-app that enables viewers to access content easily from different sources.
Whether that’s enough to boost Apple TV into the big leagues remains to be seen. But on paper at least it’s a major improvement, even if it’s not the improvement cord-cutters were hoping for.