Apple’s first product launch of the year, scheduled for March 25, could be the first of its kind. In fact, it could look a lot more like the upfronts where TV networks give advertisers a taste of their coming seasons than the splashy hardware demonstrations the company is known for. Instead of a new Macbook or line of iPads, Apple’s expected to devote the lion’s share of the presentation to its new streaming network.
This is partially according to a not-so subtle hint on the company’s invites, which read “It’s show time.” The invitations, sent March 11, also indicated that event will take place on a Monday at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California.
Apple’s new streaming service is supposed to become an instant heavy-hitter in Hollywood: The company is said to have spent more than $1 billion developing its own stable of prestige shows, including a new drama by the La La Land writer-director Damien Chazelle, and an unnamed series starring Steve Carell, Reese Witherspoon, and Jennifer Aniston. A March 13 Bloomberg report says Apple is planning a red carpet, and that A-list celebrities and media moguls alike are expected to be on-hand to sell Apple as the one stop shop for all your media and content needs.
As you can see in the above comparison, this isn’t the first time Apple has sought to make a splash in the entertainment world. In fact, it’s not even the first time it’s used this invite format, either. In 2006 it used almost the exact same language ahead of its September 12 event to introduce iTunes 7, the update which formally brought movies into the iTunes Store. But in addition to iTunes 7, Apple also debuted three new iPod models and it teased an “iTV” device that would later be renamed Apple TV once it hit shelves in 2007.
Similarly, March 25 might hold other surprises. Apple is widely expected to debut a premium version of Apple News that would let users subscribe to newspapers and magazines directly from the app. A Bloomberg report also notes that Apple could debut a new Apple Pay feature, a likely precursor to the iPhone credit card it’s reportedly developing with Goldman Sachs.
But the streaming product will still take center stage. Steve Jobs was famously engrossed with the challenge of reinventing the TV during the 2007 event, an obsession that continued even after he stepped down as CEO of Apple. This upcoming event could finally bring that vision to fruition.
Apple March Event: Invites and Livestream Details
Apple’s next product launch will kick off at 1 p.m. Eastern on March 25. As usual, it will be live streamed on Apple’s special events landing page, which usually begins a few minutes before before the curtain call.
Apple’s site states that its live streams are best enjoyed on:
- An iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running Safari on iOS 10 or later.
- A Mac running Safari on macOS Sierra 10.12 or later.
- A PC running Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge.
- A second-generation or later Apple TV, streaming over AirPlay, running the latest Apple TV software or tvOS.
- Chrome or Firefox browsers may work, as long as they’re set up to support MSE, H.264, and AAC.
Apple Streaming Service: Price, Leaks, New Shows
Apple’s streaming service is said to offer a smorgasbord of original content, third-party shows, and channel subscriptions for customers. Jefferies analyst Tim O’Shea predicted that a subscription will cost $15 per month, according to a February 19 9to5Mac report. That’s notably pricier than the cheapest Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video subscriptions, which are all roughly $8 per month.
Apple is reportedly investing $1 billion to produce its own series, which are supposed to have a prestige feel. There will also likely be hardware tie-ins and other incentives, according to a report by CNBC which said that iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV will all come loaded with free, Apple-owned content. Accessing subscription channels and other online-only services will probably require further payment.
So how is Apple going to get people to justify spending twice as much on its streaming service? By distributing the shows automatically and for free to Apple hardware, the company obviously hopes that some of them will find a captive audience capable of getting hooked. But if it can lure in the partners it’s courting — a group which is said to include HBO, Showtime, and Starz — meaning it could offer access to all the major premium channels at a pretty steep discount to start, right as the new Game of Thrones season kicks off.
Apple News Subscription Service
The other main launch on the docket for March 25 is said to be a premium version of its existing Apple News app, according to a February 12 Buzzfeed News report. Instead of giving users access to only a certain number of articles from each publication, it’ll give subscribers the ability to pay for access to an unlimited number of articles and videos for around $10 per month. Again, the timing is ripe: While a paid news product might have seemed a tough sell in 2017, we are now well into what Alexis Madrigal called at the time the beginning of the “paywall era.”
How successful the initiative is will depend on how many paywalls Apple’s new product will let you get around. At least at the time of BuzzFeed’s report, Apple was still in the process of winning outlets over to its model, which would have Apple keeping roughly half of the subscription revenue it makes from the service. Publishers would then divvy up the rest depending on how much time users spend reading their articles, according to a separate The Wall Street Journal report published on on February 12.
The WSJ report states that bothThe New York Times and Washington Post had refused Apple’s terms as of February 12, and it’s hard to see who’d be all that interested in a subscription news product without those two outlets on the table. That said, the Wall Street Journal will likely be in the mix, an off-the-record source from the paper’s business wing told the Journal reporters on the story that talks with Apple have been “productive.”
Apple March 25 Event: Other Rumors
There is still some hope that Apple could release more hardware, as it has done at March product launches in the past. Specifically, expectations have been high that Apple will launch a new iPad mini — which hasn’t been refreshed since 2015 — and a lightly upgraded pair of AirPods that come with a wireless charging case.
Neither of those products really come to mind as a device that’s tailored to watching movies, except perhaps the iPad mini. Besides, Apple is said to be trying to emphasize its growing services business. During Apple’s January earnings call, the company reported its first ever decline in sales since 2001, mostly due to lagging iPhone interest. Ballooning revenue from subscription services was the silver lining.
A services-focused launch, then, also leaves the door open for a teaser of the expected Apple-branded credit card,. Currently, Apple Pay takes a 0.15 percent transaction cut from the bank every time someone decides to pay with their iPhone. A credit card would let Apple begin making money off of lending transactions, too.
The company reported that is has more than 360 million paid subscribers across platforms and software products like Apple Music and iCloud. Leaning into this sector decreases its reliance on the hardware cycle and secures a steady stream of revenue every month.
A new dawn for Apple is about to begin.