Despite its limited success thus far, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) appears determined to bring as much original content as possible to its own media platforms.
The company is quietly developing a series with music industry heavyweight will.i.am. An interesting project to be sure, but will Apple's efforts here actually move the needle for the firm? Let's take a look.
An Apple and a Black Eyed Pea
According to a flurry of reporting late last week , the Cupertino-based tech giant has enlisted an elite group of entertainment industry talents to help develop its first unscripted series. In addition to the aforementioned will.i.am, Apple has also reportedly received commitments from TV execs including Ben Silverman and Howard Owens.
Though most readers have likely never heard of either Silverman or Owens, the duo are certainly Hollywood heavy hitters. In addition to serving stints at media industry stalwarts The William Morris Agency and NBC Entertainment, Silverman founded two production and distribution companies -- Reveille and Electus -- that produced shows such as The Office, The Biggest Loser, Ugly Betty, and others. In addition to working with Silverman at Reveille, Howard Owens also worked for the William Morris Agency and most recently served as the president of National Geographic Channels.
Production talent aside, it appears Apple's first unscripted series will focus on the "app economy" the company famously helped create. Beyond that, virtually no details for Apple's project have become public. The news could reflect an accelerated cadence in Apple's content development efforts, though. Last week, news that Apple sealed an exclusive content deal with Vice Media also gained attention in tech and entertainment circles. However, though its gradually expanding scope appears beneficial, I'm still not sure I'm sold on Apple's exclusive content strategy.
Not nearly enough
Given Apple's penchant for secrecy, it's hard to tell exactly what the tech giant hopes to achieve with its original content. Considering the painfully gradual pace of its development though, it seems as if Apple might not be so clear about its strategy in this arena either.
As far as I can tell, the eventual addition of the will.i.am series will increase the number of Apple's original or exclusive content titles to a grand total of five, though Drake's Hotline Bling video is no longer under exclusive status with Apple. For context, the other exclusive or original pieces under Apple's control (and available through an Apple Music subscription) are the documentary chronicling Taylor Swift's 1989 tour, the Vice Media Series The Score, and Vital Signs.
That catalog doesn't do much to move the company's content library beyond licensed music -- especially as music streaming leader Spotify continues to add unique features and grow its paid and free user bases. In all honesty, it seems as if Apple's growth strategy for Apple Music has lost its direction.
Apple Music's original marketing plan centered around two points of differentiation over Spotify: curation and original content. Apple spent months prior to Music's launch recruiting top music industry talent to curate playlists and DJ for Apple Music stations. Spotify effectively negated this advantage when it rolled out its own algorithm-driven music recommendation playlists only weeks after Apple Music launched. This left exclusive content as the sole unique marketable feature for Apple Music, albeit a weak one to begin with. However, given the snail's pace at which Apple has acquired or created that content, it seems the company doesn't have a strong sense of exactly what its doing to help promote its music streaming service.
Fortunately for Apple, the counterpoint is that this isn't likely to really affect its financial performance to an appreciable degree, especially in the near term. True, listening to music remains one of the most common things people use their smartphones for today , and the rise of popular alternatives weakens Apple's grip on its users' mobile experience. However, the company's death grip on other core aspects of the mobile experience, particularly the app economy its forthcoming series will highlight, means that losing the battle for streaming music dominance alone won't meaningfully impact its iPhone and iPad sales outlook. But for a company whose current success is rooted so deeply in leading the evolution of digital music, it's unfortunate to see Apple's music product efforts appear as listless as they do today.