CUPERTINO, Calif. (Reuters) – Apple Inc attempted to reintroduce itself on Monday as an entertainment and financial services company that also makes iPhones as it launched a streaming television service, a credit card and an online gaming arcade.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple (L) and Oprah Winfrey hug during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S., March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
The world’s second-most valuable technology company lifted the curtain on a television and movie service called Apple TV+ that will stream original television shows and movies to a television-watching app for users of its 1.4 billion gadgets worldwide, as well as owners of smart TVs and other devices.
But Apple, known in the tech industry for keeping its products secret until they are finished, left out key pricing details for several of its new services, unnerving investors and sending its shares down slightly.
The move could be seen as a first step to challenging streaming video leaders Netflix and Amazon, although Apple is taking a different approach by offering paid “channels” from HBO, Starz and Showtime alongside its own content.
Its revamped app for subscribing to channels from others will come out in May, but Apple’s own original shows will not arrive until autumn, with pricing not yet announced. Apple said both its TV+ shows and the new version of the TV app will be available in more than 100 countries.
Apple also introduced a credit card, a video game arcade, and added hundreds of magazines to its news app at an event at its Cupertino, California, headquarters.
As Apple struggles with saturated markets and sales of its iPhone fall, the company is turning more of its attention to services that provide regular subscription revenue.
Hollywood celebrities helped debut the revamped television offering. Apple has commissioned programming from Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.
Throughout the presentation, Apple executives stressed privacy protections for consumers as they shop and consume content across a range of Apple phones, iPads or other hardware.
They also emphasized content that would appeal to young audiences, potentially setting the stage for a rivalry with Walt Disney Co. Winfrey announced a global book club.
The company, second only to Microsoft Corp in market value among tech giants, led off the event with an announcement that its free news app will now come in a paid-subscription version, called Apple News+, which curates a range of news articles and will include 300 magazines including National Geographic, People, Popular Science, Billboard and the New Yorker. Apple said it would cost $9.99 a month.
Apple also introduced a titanium, laser-etched Apple Card backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Mastercard Inc that can track spending across devices and pay daily cash back on purchases.
Cook also said Apple Pay, its digital wallet, will soon be usable on public transit systems in Portland, Oregon, Chicago and New York City. Apple Pay will be available in more than 40 countries by the end of the year.
With its new media push, Apple joins a crowded field where rivals such as Amazon.com’s Prime Video and Netflix Inc have spent heavily to capture viewer attention and dollars with award-winning series and films.
The big tech war for viewers ignited a consolidation wave among traditional media companies preparing to join the fray. Walt Disney Co, which bought 21st Century Fox, and AT&T Inc, which purchased Time Warner Inc, plan to launch or test new streaming video services this year.
Revenue from its “services” segment – which includes the App Store, iCloud and content businesses such as Apple Music – grew 24 percent to $37.1 billion in fiscal 2018. The segment accounted for only about 14 percent of Apple’s overall $265.6 billion in revenue, but investors have pinned their hopes for growth on the segment.
The company also introduced Apple Arcade, a game subscription service that will work on phones, tablets and desktop computers and include games from a range of developers. Apple said the gaming service will feature more than 100 exclusive titles from gaming partners such as Annapurna Interactive and that the service will arrive this autumn.
But as with its original content service, Apple did not say how much its gaming service will cost consumers. With details about the new services missing, Apple shares fell 1.7 percent on Monday.
Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco, Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Kenneth Li in New York; Writing by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Bill Rigby