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Inside Apple Inc's Weird Choice for Original Content

By Andrew Tonner - Mar 28, 2016 at 4:03PM

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Apple Music brings Vice Media content to Apple Music, but does its strategy make sense?


Image Source: Vice.

So far, Apple's (AAPL 2.03%) strategy to drive new subscribers to Apple Music can be more or less boiled down to a single point: original content. And as the massive shifts within the music industry continues to unfold, Apple recently inked another original content deal with none other than Vice Media.

Vice Media comes to Apple Music
Recently, news broke that Apple and Canadian-American media outlet Vice Media had reached a deal to make Vice's documentary series, The Score, available exclusively through Apple Media.

The six-episode series will purportedly delve into some of the most far-flung and interesting music scenes in the world. The first episode chronicles members of the fledgling hip-hop scene among the Ojibwe Native American tribe in Minnesota.

This move largely mimics Apple's other recent original content moves. In addition to The Score, it was earlier reported that Apple had financed the music video for Drake's Hotling Bling single, and Taylor Swift's 1989 documentary, which follows the pop star while on tour.

Crucially, Apple required both content pieces remain exclusively, at least for a certain length of time, on Apple Music, as part of its financing agreements. Likewise, The Score is only available for Apple Music subscribers. 

Additionally, word surfaced last month that Apple is also quietly developing its first original TV series with hip hop legend and Apple executive Dr. Dre under the working title Vital Signs. In sum, these moves pretty clearly demonstrate Apple Music's strategy to acquire users – bait them with exclusive content. But is it working?

Strategy success?
In considering whether its exclusive content strategy remains the correct course of action, it seems like Apple, with all its marketing muscle, is capable of making a more-concerted push to popularize its new streaming music service.

image Source: Apple.

It doesn't appear that Apple is making anything even remotely approaching a concerted effort to publicize its exclusive content offerings, which is particularly troublesome. Granted, Apple's total log of exclusive content, some of which has become publicly available more recently, totaled a paltry three offerings. That doesn't provide much in the way of fodder around which Apple could create a marketing campaign. However, Apple's overall lack of activity in both expanding its exclusive video content backlog and also promoting it suggests something isn't clicking at Apple Music.

The lack of urgency in executing its strategy also coincides with strong product development efforts from Apple's key streaming music rival, Spotify. Perhaps driven by its underdog status against Apple, Spotify has launched a number of impressive features, including in-app concert booking and a growing catalog of non-exclusive video content from the likes of ESPN, Comedy Central, MTV, the BBC, TED Talks, and many more. 

Though it only debuted late last June, Apple Music has reportedly surpassed 11 million paying subscribers. Compared to Spotify's recently updated 30-million paying-member figure, Apple Music doesn't necessarily look like a flop. However, the corollary is that it doesn't look like a resounding success, either, especially because Apple already has more than 800 million iTunes accounts to which it can market Apple Music.

Perhaps the addition of Vice's new series represents the start of a more-concerted exclusive-content push on Apple's end. Only time will tell. However, based on the information available today, something seems off with Apple Music's marketing plan.

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