The entertainment industry is in a state of disruption. Consumer preferences are changing and new challengers are quickly taking share from the old guard. Investors who can identify the winners stand to make a fortune, and those who fail to recognize the key trends shaping the future of entertainment will be left behind.
Apple has long ruled the music download business with its iTunes platform, and now the tech giant is expanding into the world of streaming music with its new Apple Music service.
As my colleague Chris Neiger explains, Apple Music is a combination of a streaming music service, a 24-hour global radio station, and a music discovery tool for new artists.
It comes at a good time; streaming music subscription services such as Spotify and Pandora have been gaining popularity at the expense of digital music sales. If Apple Music can help the tech titan obtain a leading position in the high-growth streaming market, it could help to cement Apple's place as the king of music entertainment.
Yet Apple's biggest impact on the entertainment industry may take place not in music, but in the far larger TV market. The TV industry is ripe for disruption. Bloated and expensive cable bundle packages and terrible customer service have cable customers clamoring for change. And Apple is one of the few companies strong enough to help transform this monopolistic industry.
Its Apple TV product has outgrown its "hobby" status with sales surpassing 25 million units. That's small -- by Apple's standards -- compared to the more than 700 million iPhones that have been sold, but it's already a billion dollar business.
Yet Apple appears to have far larger ambitions, something CEO Tim Cook alluded to during Apple's March event, saying, "Apple TV will reinvent the way you watch TV. And this is just the beginning."
Although recent reports have alleged that Apple has scrapped its plans to produce a full-blown television set, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is working to create a Web-based TV service that would include a streamlined bundle of approximately 25 channels for between $30 and $40 per month. It's not quite a full-blown a-la-carte option, but it would be a move in the right direction and likely add more fuel to the cord cutting fire.
Such a channel bundle service could also ignite sales of the Apple TV and further strengthen Apple's ecosystem while simultaneously weakening the competitive position of the major cable companies. Investors should watch this battle closely, as it's sure to have far reaching ramifications for the entertainment industry as it unfolds in the years ahead.
Like Apple, Google stands to benefit tremendously from the shift toward online video.
While Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) is often mentioned as the primary beneficiary of this trend, investors may find it interesting to note that it's YouTube that dominates the time people spend watching online video. In fact, according to a March 2014 survey conducted by nScreenMedia, YouTube accounts for 48% of all time people spend watching video online, far ahead of Netflix at 22%.
It's been nearly nine years since Google purchased YouTube for what many considered to be the astronomical price of $1.65 billion. But YouTube's user growth has since exploded, from 20 million monthly users at the time of the acquisition to more than one billion today.
Content creation on the site continues to grow at a rapid clip, with 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. And advertisers are flocking to YouTube, with more than a million businesses using Google ad platforms.
Wall Street has begun to take notice, with analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch going as far as to place YouTube's valuation at up to $90 billion. Thanks to the explosive growth in the online video ad market, these analysts believe that YouTube's revenues could reach $8 billion in in 2015 and $13 billion by 2017. For context, Netflix earned less than $6 billion in revenue over the last year.
At $90 billion, YouTube would account for nearly 25% of Google's current market cap of $374 billion. That's incredible, and it shows just how important YouTube is becoming to Google's future.