The SVOD category is (likely) about to get more crowded, as Apple readies its streaming announcement. While nothing’s been confirmed, the techco has invited journalists and celebs to its Monday announcement, promising that “It’s show time.” The industry, predictably, is on the edge of its collective seat in anticipation of the long-promised Apple streaming service.
Concrete details about the service are scarce, and questions aplenty. (How much will it cost? How will the pricing work? What content will be available? How will you access it? What will it look like? What will it even be called?). While we at Kidscreen don’t actually have the answers for you yet (but check back in for more information on Monday) we had several industry experts crack out their crystal balls and weigh in on what they think will be announced on March 25 at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California.
But first, here’s what we do know: Apple is launching a new streaming service at some point, most likely this year. DHX is in development on new exclusive Peanuts content, while Sesame Workshop is in development on live-action show, an animated series, and a series based on puppets for the SVOD. Tara Sorensen, who most recently served as head of kids programming at Amazon Studios, is leading content initiatives on the kids side as head of creative development, children. She also held previous VP roles at Sony Pictures Family Entertainment and National Geographic Kids Entertainment. Kristen McGregor is also an attached creative development executive of children’s programming. Previously, McGregor served as a producer on Sinking Ship’s The Giver and Universal Kids’ Sunny Side Up.
And…that’s about it. One thing is for sure though, kids are not going to get left behind.
1) Fear not, kids will have a spot in the line up
“Kids [content] is absolutely essential to SVODs because people who pay for SVODs over-index on having children, especially young children,” says Guy Bisson, research director at London-based market research firm Ampere Analysis. “What is interesting is the opportunity and where that opportunity lies.”
For any streamer aiming to target a mass audience (which Bisson thinks Apple will do, based on its announcements so far) there are three main content genres to focus on. Drama, comedy and children’s.
Even though the majority of announcements so far have focused on original productions, Bisson expects that Apple will also announce a lot of licensed content on Monday. It would be difficult to compete against Netflix, Hulu and Amazon without a significant amount of catalogue material, says Bisson.
2) No Netflix binge-drop strategy
But don’t expect that content to come all at once either. While Netflix is partial to dropping entire seasons of shows on a single date, it’s not actually a very effective way of building hype around new content, Bisson says.
“Apple, I suspect, will experiment with and possibly skew a bit more towards that more linear-like schedule, because it kind of works with the desire and need to boost the device system as well,” he says. Providing people, say commuters, something they can watch on their iPhones on their way home from the office once a week would fit with the broader Apple product eco-system.
3) Brand-appropriate, bespoke content will rule
London-based distributor CAKE CCO and managing director Ed Galton confirms that while CAKE has been in conversation with Apple, nothing is in place yet.
“We’re talking to them as producers as opposed to distributors, so it’s kind of hard because we wear both hats,” says Galton. But he adds that while the traditional model of selling broad catalogues has been the way many SVODs have gotten their start, it’s not likely something Apple is looking to replicate. “It wants something that’s distinctive, that their brand can be attached to, which is harder to do with off-the-shelf product,” Galton says.
4) Creator-led content will take a back-seat (at least for now)
Distributors likely need to change up their methods a little bit to tailor to Apple’s (possible) demand for unique content it can put a stamp on. But producers shouldn’t fret too much. Despite a recent shift to signing overall deals with individual creators, like Netflix did with Chris Nee (Doc McStuffins, Vampirina) and Darla Anderson (Coco, Toy Story 3) and Disney did with Craig Gerber (Sofia the First) and Travis Braun (Fast Layne, T.O.T.S.), Galton predicts that Apple will not be able to just sign these deals and head out on its own. Since Apple is so new to the broadcast space, it’s going to need to work with third-parties, including outside production companies, to stock its content.
More than anything, Galton says everyone should prepare for Apple’s original content to be the highest quality. The streamer will likely continue the trend of SVODs expecting the most from producers, to compete in the space.
“I’m sure people are coming to them with the cream of the crop in the kids space,” says Galton.
5) Prepare for hands-on oversight
But, he says, producers should also prepare for Apple to likely be a bit more hands-on, especially if you take into account how the techco has handled its product launches in the past.
“I think it has a very specific way for how it manages the brand and business,” says Galton. “And I wouldn’t expect it to be any different in this new space.”
This wouldn’t be out of step for Apple, as the tech company has gone to great lengths maintain control over its product ecosystem, designing every package in the Apple Store, including third-party products, and also maintaining stricter approval controls over apps available in its App Store in comparison to the relative free-for-all of Google Play.
6) A tech-forward walled-off kids space
While accessibility is key—especially for tiny fingers—Dubit’s head of research Peter Robinson predicts that the SVOD will get a boost from Apple’s device technology.
While most streamers have a walled-off space that’s kid-friendly, Robinson imagines that on Apple’s service, kids could access the content through biometrics, such as facial recognition and voice control, much like people can access their phones. This, in turn, could make it harder for kids to access grown-up content.
The tech company could also incorporate voice into its discoverability features, like allowing users to search with Siri on the new platform, he says. He suspects that Apple’s user accounts overall will be quite intelligent, since it has a massive team of more than 50,000 people, most working on building new technology.
7) Tiered content-based pricing
As for roll-out, Robinson believes Apple’s streaming service could roll out the way it approached music. Through iTunes, Apple first allowed people to buy individual songs, before then introducing a “free” streaming services that limited what people could listen to. Then, once people were hooked, it introduced an unlimited content subscription service for a fee (US$9.99 a month, which, if translated to the streaming service would be on-par with Netflix and Amazon pricing-wise).
But Robinson thinks Apple could take the TV service even further, charging based on a tiered pricing system based on access to premium and super-premium content. Apple set aside US$1 billion for original programming, including big pay outs for the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Steven Spielberg. A premium or super-premium pricing platform (kind of like it has for its phones) would help the brand recoup some of the cost its work with creators.