Should Apple try to compete with Netflix and Amazon?

Tim Cook has hinted that Apple is getting ready to compete with Netflix and Amazon in original video content, but is it a case of too little and far too late?

apple vs netflix
Advanced Networks

Netflix and Amazon have both done an amazing job creating original TV shows and movies that have attracted millions of subscribers. Apple, on the other hand, has lagged far behind and still has no offering available to compete with either company.

But Tim Cook recently hinted that Apple is getting ready to enter the original video market:

"In terms of original content, we have put our toe in the water doing some original content for Apple Music, and that will be rolling out through the year. We are learning from that, and we'll go from there. The way that we participate in the changes that are going on in the media industry — that I fully expect to accelerate from the cable bundle beginning to break down — is:

We started the new Apple TV a year ago, we're pleased on how that platform has come along. We have more things planned for it, but it's come a long way in a year, and it gives us a clear platform to build off of.

Embedded in the 150 million paid subscriptions that I mentioned in my opening comments, there's a number of third-party services that are a part of that, where we participate economically in some of that by offering our platform selling and distributing.

With our toe in the water we are learning a lot about the original content business, and thinking about ways that we could play in that."

More at CNBC

Too late for Apple to beat Amazon and Netflix?

I must admit here that I’ve heard Pipeline Tim say that “great things are on the way” so many times in the past that I’ve basically become numb to it. So when I saw that Cook was hinting that Apple was about to begin producing original video content, my eyes rolled into the back of my head.

Apple has had years and years to enter the original content market, and the company hasn’t done anything despite having more money than any other company on the planet. Meanwhile Amazon and Netflix have both raced ahead of Apple by creating large and impressive libraries of original content.

So even if Apple jumps into producing movies and TV shows with both feet, it will still lag behind Amazon and Netflix. Creating good original TV shows and movies is not something that can be done quickly, regardless of how much money a company has to throw at content producers.

The fact that Apple seems to be tentatively beginning its entrance into original content doesn’t bode well either. The company should commit to it in a big way, or not at all. I get the feeling from Cook’s statements that Apple “sort of” wants to try creating original content.

Well that’s not good enough when you are competing against Netflix and Amazon. Both of those companies are moving incredibly fast to build vast libraries of movies and TV shows, and neither company seems to be slowing down.

So Apple does not have the luxury of time to sit on its rear end and diffidently experiment with original content. The company needs a Netflix type service if it is going to compete, and it needs a huge amount of quality video content to attract subscribers.

What does Apple Music have to do with original video content?

I also rolled my eyes when Tim Cook mentioned creating original  content for Apple Music. Huh? Apple Music is a music service, not a Netflix video service. Experimenting with original content for Apple Music does not fill me with confidence that Apple understands just what it has to do to compete with Amazon and Netflix.

Apple essentially needs a video Marshall Plan that will give the company a clear path forward into the original video market. Just experimenting with content on Apple Music is not going to cut it if Apple ever hopes to play in the same league as Amazon or Netflix.

Unfortunately, I don't think there is anybody at Apple that could create such a plan. So the company will probably go nowhere fast while its rivals continue to build their content libraries and expand their already large numbers of subscribers. 

What kind of movies and TV shows would Apple produce?

Another issue that comes up in my mind is just what kind of movies and TV shows Apple would produce for its own video servce. The company has a bad reputation for censoring apps in its app stores, and I'm forced to wonder what that would mean for movies and TV shows.

I suspect that Apple's TV shows and movies would be far to the left, exceptionally politically correct and might turn off a lot of potential subscribers. The company has made no secret of its politics, and I doubt that its video content would stray far from Tim Cook's political agenda.

While that might be fine for some viewers, it might also alienate many others. I suppose we'll have to wait and see what - if anything - Apple eventually comes up with but if you don't tilt to the left in your politics then Apple's original movies and TV shows might leave you a bit cold, to say the least.

I'm not holding my breath for Apple's video subscription service

So you’ll excuse me if I don’t expect much from Apple when it comes to original video and TV show content. Apple is a bumbling giant that can’t seem to make up its mind what it wants to do, but it knows that it wants to do something…sort of…

Don’t worry though, if Pipeline Time says that good things are on the way in terms of original video content, I’m sure they will happen…someday...maybe...

What people are saying about Apple taking on Amazon and Netflix

The comments by Cook caught the attention of Apple redditors and they shared their thoughts in a long thread. Here’s a sample of what some Apple redditors had to say about Apple taking on Amazon and Netflix:

Devlindigital: “I'm a die-hard apple fan, but I really wish they would re-focus on refining their product line instead of trying to expand into markets they aren't competent in.

Apple has always succeeded as a collection of products that enable and streamline access and creativity. They show up late, but they show up better. (home computer vs. Macintosh, MP3 player vs iPod, smartphone vs iPhone) This model doesn't work for original content creation.”

IAteTheTigerOhMyGosh: “Two years ago, if you said Apple should launch their own radio station, you'd hardly be taken seriously. But now Beats 1 and Apple Music in general have become big successes. So I think that we should give them a chance to see what they can pull off in this area.”

Proditus: “Still not sure I'd define it as a "huge success" though. Apple Music ended up better than I thought it would be, sure, but it still hasn't put a dent in Spotify's numbers. I'm honestly not sure if Apple Music has been able to beat out Google Play Music yet.

Sometimes they get it right, but other times they just come up with half-assed "me too" options with some decent features but also some big negatives, a la Apple Maps. Most of Apple's services are really only directed towards their ecosystem too, which means that convenient third party options that people can use on any device will win out most of the time.”

Imormonstuff: “You're acting like Apple will be writing and directing the shows themselves or something.

Lets face it, they'll pay creatives who would have worked with traditional movie and television studios to make content for them, just like Netflix and Amazon have done.

Amazon was an online store that sold books. Now they're a movie studio, host lots of websites including Reddit in their data centres and sell anything that can be shipped in a box.

As a lover of TV and Movies I'm more than happy for them to get into this sector, more content being greenlit is great for the medium and our entertainment, pushing the boundaries to tell new and interesting stories which aren't censored by studios incase they piss off an advertiser/sponsor etc”

TBoneTheOriginal: “No offense, but diversifying your business so you aren't overly reliant on one product line is almost always a good idea. You don't want that one product line to decrease before realizing you should have tried other things.”

Eggyhead: “I enjoy Apple products, but I'm not going to let my hopes up over this.”

Zumacroom: “Why jump into ANOTHER market when you've already screwed up so many of your other existing products by ignoring them: Siri, Mac Pro, Final Cut Studio, color, motion, Logic, cinema displays, rtMBP (not a total screwup but just bad ideas wrapped into a low-value product).

Go back to building hardware and killer software plz. ”

Nicenightforawalk01: “This will be interesting to see how they go about doing their originals. Does it have violence or even nudity? Will they go down that path when they have tried to keep that out the App Store? even some of the films in iTunes I've suspected of being cut in graphic scenes.”

Renec588: “Maybe they could make icloud work before throwing money into the Netflix bonfire. Maybe get a couple developers on the macOS and iOS bugs. Maybe branch out into that.”

More at Reddit

Did you miss a post? Check the Eye On Apple home page to get caught up with the latest news, discussions and rumors about Apple.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

SUBSCRIBE! Get the best of CIO delivered to your email inbox.