Apple on Monday unveiled streaming service "Apple TV Plus," the consumer electronic giant’s first foray into an increasingly crowded field of online content providers that seek to capitalize on the move by consumers away from the cable box.
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The Cupertino, California-based company also announced a slew of other updates, including a new no-fee credit card and subscription news service -- initiatives that diversify Apple's revenue stream away from the iPhone, sales of which have declined recently.
"You can see how important these services are for us and for all the ways they extend the experiences of our customers even further," CEO Tim Cook told attendees at an event hosted at Apple’s headquarters.
Apple is poised to enter the highly competitive online streaming industry later this year at a critical time, when traditional platforms like Netflix and Amazon will soon battle new expected offerings from AT&T and the Walt Disney Company -- bolstered through multi-billion acquisitions of Time Warner and key 21st Century Fox assets, respectively.
For its ad-free service, Apple formed partnerships with some of the most powerful players in Hollywood. It inked a multi-year deal with Oprah Winfrey, joined with famed directors like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams, and hired talent like Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell and Jennifer Aniston for its original programming -- all of whom appeared at Apple's event to unveil the offering.
The company did not disclose pricing for the service or whether customers will be given the option to bundle other services together.
It also bolstered its Apple TV application by allowing customers to link subscription services like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO and Showtime -- as well as cable providers like Spectrum -- to one platform.
"Our vision for the Apple TV app is to bring together your favorite shows, movies, sports and news and make them available on all of your devices so you can spend less time looking for someting to watch and more time enjoying them," Cook said.
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Alongside the streaming service, Apple unveiled a new subscription news service – called Apple News Plus -- that will now allow customers to access newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and magazines like Time, Wired and Vogue for a monthly fee of $9.99.
“Magazines are iconic and a part of our culture. They follow and create the latest trends in fashion and style. They entertain, they educate us about the world we live in. They provide insights into science and technology,” Cook said.
But while Cook touted that the subscription service will be “great for customers and great for publishers,” the CEO of the New York Times Company last week warned against relying on third-party distributors.
"We tend to be quite leery about the idea of almost habituating people to find our journalism somewhere else," Mark Thompson told Reuters. "We're also generically worried about our journalism being scrambled in a kind of Magimix (blender) with everyone else's journalism."
When asked if the outlet is in talks with Apple to join the new offering, Thompson hedged and said if he was a broadcast network he would have “thought twice about giving all of my library to Netflix.”
Apple is said to be taking 50 percent of the revenue from the subscriptions.
And as pressure builds on the tech industry over the sharing of customer data, Apple executives stressed that advertisers are unable to track what articles users view on its news application.
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The company also partnered with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard on a new Apple credit card – with no annual or late fees and low interest rates. The card is expected to be made available this summer.
The company is soon rolling out a service in Portland, Chicago and New York City to allow users to use Apple Pay to pay for public transit, an offering already available in countries like the U.K.