Netflix has House of Cards, Amazon has Transparent, and maybe in a year or two we’ll all be talking about Apple’s hot original hit or ingenious reboot of classic '80s sitcom Head of the Class.
According to a report in The Street, Apple’s SVP Eddy Cue is taking meetings in Hollywood looking for exclusive content deals for iTunes. Since the long-rumored streaming bundle of channels has reportedly been put on hold, Apple’s new focus could be working with creators to make new shows you’ll only be able to see on iTunes.
Apple has seen exclusivity work in its favor already: Taylor Swift’s 1989 concert film, for example, launched exclusively on Apple Music; iTunes is the only place to get the live iTunes Festival (now Apple Music Festival) sets; and HBO Now launched exclusively on iOS and Apple TV before rolling out to other platforms.
To binge or not to binge
But would exclusive shows make a big difference if customers have to purchase them a la carte? Netflix and Amazon Prime are subscription services, so if an exclusive show lures you in to subscribe, you might keep paying months after you finished streaming its season, because of all the other content that you get along with it. Or maybe subscribers who were thinking of cancelling Netflix will stick around for a few more months because they want to catch the upcoming season of Orange is the New Black. Amazon Prime is another beast altogether since it bundles the streaming video with extra benefits like no-charge two-day shipping and Kindle e-book lending privileges. But in both cases, customers are paying a subscription fee, and the original content is a reason to keep it up.
Apple has a monthly streaming service with Apple Music, complete with an app on the Apple TV, so it could branch out and add these new exclusive shows to that. (Spotify, for example, is adding short-form videos to its music-streaming service.) That would boost Apple Music subscriber numbers as well giving those subscribers an extra reason to buy an Apple TV.
Simply having exclusive shows for purchase in the iTunes Store—where TV shows and seasons are currently only offered for sale, not for rent—might not be as compelling. The iTunes Store has hundreds of shows all competing directly with each other (even House of Cards, if you don’t mind waiting), so any new exclusive content would have to be pretty amazing—and brilliantly marketed—if Apple ever hopes to change the culture’s catchphrase to “iTunes and chill.”