Apple has already had quite a busy month, but it’s not over yet. Apple is holding an event on Monday, March 25th at Steve Jobs Theater with the tagline “It’s show time.” The event will focus on Apple’s upcoming services, including Apple News Magazines, original content and streaming video, App Store gaming, and much more.
9to5Mac will be in attendance with instant coverage of all the announcements out of Apple Park. Before the event kicks off, here’s our comprehensive preview of everything we expect to see from Apple’s March 25th event.
March Apple Event
Apple invited the press to its March 25th event earlier this month, using the tagline “It’s show time” on the invite. This is a clear hint at one of the biggest focuses of the event: Apple’s new streaming video service. Apple even cleared the deck for most hardware expectations before the event this week.
The event is being held at Steve Jobs Theater and will kick off at 10AM PT or 1PM ET. Notably, this will be the first non-iPhone event held at Apple’s special venue. Reports have suggested it will be quite the star-studded event, with celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and J.J. Abrams all in attendance. Read on for everything to expect.
Apple Video Service
Headlining Apple’s event will undoubtedly be its new streaming video initiatives. There are two distinct components to these efforts. Let’s break it down.
The biggest component of Apple’s expanded video plans is its foray into original content. The company is said to be spending upwards of $1 billion on original TV shows and movies, and some reports claim Apple has spent well over its budget on original TV shows already. Monday’s event should offer our first preview of this content.
Apple’s Worldwide Video Programming team is led by Jamie Ehrlicht and Zack Van Amburg, two veteran Sony Television executives poached by Apple to serve as the company’s tastemakers in picking which new TV shows to purchase. Apple has also hired a number of other TV industry veterans, including Carol Trussell of Gaumont Television who joined Apple as its head of production. Other hires include executives from WGN, Amazon Studios, Universal Television, and more.
Apple has dozens of TV shows and movies in the works for its original content platform, although the service isn’t expected to launch with a full catalog when it’s ready due to production schedules.
One of the flagship TV shows will star Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell and is tentatively titled “The Morning Show.” The series, which is said to have nearly completed filming the first of at least two seasons, will focus on “the lives of the people who help America wake up in the morning.” It’s based Brian Stelter’s book “Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV.”
A report from The New York Times this past week laid out the five TV shows from Apple that have already finished filming: “Are You Sleeping” starring Octavia Spencer, space drama “For All Mankind”, a thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, a comedy from the stars of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and a comedy called “Dickinson” based on the poet of the same name.
Another big name working with Apple is J.J Abrams, who is producing a pair of TV shows for the company. One will star Jennifer Garner, while the other is a dramedy with Abrams and Sara Bareilles. Apple is also working with Steven Spielberg on a new Amazing Stories sci-fi series. The high-budget show will feature at least 10 episodes and act as a continuation of the anthology of the same name that ran on NBC in the 1980s.
Apple also recently announced a multi-year original content partnership with Oprah. Apple says this partnership will allow Oprah to “create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.” This is one of the only formal announcements about the new content service Apple has made so far, although specifics are still vague.
How will Apple price its original content? The jury is still out on that, but CNBC has reported on multiple occasions that Apple will make at least some of its original TV shows and movies available for free to Apple device owners.
One report suggested that Apple will offer its first wave of original content for free to device owners, with these offerings primarily being TV-PG rated shows. From there, Apple would eventually add a paid subscription tier with additional free content targeting a wider market. We should finally know for sure on Monday.
As far as movies go, Apple is partnering with film studio A24 to produce original films. The first collaboration between the two is a film tentatively titled “On the Rocks” starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones, with Sofia Coppola serving as director and producer. Details on Apple’s film efforts are more unclear than its TV initiatives, though.
Apple is expected to only offer a preview of its original content plans on Monday. The company will likely show trailers for shows at its March event, but the service itself isn’t expected to launch until later this summer or fall. Here’s more of what to expect in the lineup:
Upgraded TV App
The other facet to Apple’s streaming TV plans is an upgraded version of the TV app, which is available on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. In its current form, the TV app pulls in content from outside applications such as CBS, DirecTV Now, Hulu, and more. The TV app itself doesn’t actually play content aside from iTunes Movies and TV Shows, but rather aggregates video from those outside apps, and sends users back to those apps to play the content.
On Monday, the TV app is expected to get a major upgrade.
According to reports, Apple is planning to integrate third-party subscriptions directly into the TV app. This means users would be able to subscribe to services like Starz, Showtime, CBS, Viacom, HBO, and more directly through the TV app.
Apple is also said to be offering discounts to users who bundle multiple services together. For instance, users could subscribe to a ‘package’ of Starz and Showtime through the TV app at a cheaper rate than subscribing to each individually outside of the app.
Furthermore, Apple will host and stream third-party content directly in its TV application. This means that when you go to play content from a service such as HBO, you’ll be able to watch it directly in the TV app, rather than be kicked out to the HBO app itself. This is a major improvement in the user experience, and a big change from how Apple has generally handled third-party subscriptions by punting to the App Store or web.
We expect that big name services like HBO, Starz, and Showtime will be included in the new TV app, but what about the services that won’t be included? At this point, we’ve seen reports that neither Netflix nor Hulu content will be available through the upgraded TV app at launch.
Netflix has said that it prefers to offer content exclusively through its own applications, and therefore has no reason to integrate with the TV app. Meanwhile, Hulu has long integrated with the basic version of the TV app, but reports suggest it will not be available through the upgraded version of the app.
Apple News Magazines
On the flip side, Apple’s March 25th event will also be home to the announcement of a paid subscription component to Apple News. This will allow users to pay a monthly fee to unlock paywalled content from publishers who sign up for the service.
Apple’s pitch to publishers centers on the size of its user base. By joining the Apple News subscription service, publishers will reach a much larger audience because Apple News is preinstalled on every iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
What publishers have Apple signed on to the service? Notably, the company has reportedly inked a deal with The Wall Street Journal. Another report suggested that Vox has also signed on to the service. Other big name publishers, including The New York Times and Washington Post, however, will not be available through the service.
One thing that is unclear is how Apple plans to differentiate between magazines and news content. Much of the Apple News subscription service is expected to be based on Texture, which Apple acquired last year. Texture is a subscription-based service that offers unlimited access to digital magazine content.
The Apple News service, however, is expected to integrate both magazines and traditional news outlets. Recent iOS betas have offered a look at how magazines will be integrated, but how it all ties together will be interesting to see on Monday.
As for price, The Wall Street Journal has reported Apple is targeting a $9.99 per month subscription for users. Apple will then take a 50 percent cut of that revenue, while the remaining 50 percent will be split among publishers based on readership through Apple News.
Apple is also planning to launch a new games subscription service at its March event, which has been referred to as the “Netflix for games.” The existence of this services was first reported by Cheddar earlier this year, and a report from Bloomberg recently shed more light on how it will work.
According to the reports, the games service will allow users to pay a monthly subscription to access a bundle of games that are generally paid apps in the App Store. Therefore, games that rely on in-app purchases will not be included in this service.
It’s unclear at this point what titles will be included in this subscription bundle, but the reports suggest that Apple has been in discussions with partners and developers. It’s also unknown how much users will have to pay per month to access the games service.
As for developer payouts, Apple’s plans with the game service seem to be similar to News. Apple will reportedly pay developers based on the amount of time users play each game in the bundle.
The company would collect these monthly fees, then divide up the revenue between developers based on how much time users spend playing their games, one of the people said. Apple is likely considering popular paid titles on the App Store and would exclude titles that are free to download but generate revenue via in-app purchases.
Today’s report from Bloomberg does make the caveat that Apple may wait until this summer to announce its games service at WWDC. Monday’s event, however, does seem like the perfect opportunity.
Apple Credit Card
Another new initiative from Apple that is perfect for an announcement at the March event is its branded credit card. Apple is said to be partnering with Goldman Sachs on a credit card that integrates closely with the Wallet app on iOS.
The Apple credit card, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, could offer 2% cash back to users, as well as other benefits when buying Apple products. Air miles are currently not on the table, according to the report.
The Apple + Goldman Sachs card will purportedly feature unique integration with the Wallet app on iOS, which has undergone notable design changes in iOS 12.2 betas. One such feature would reportedly take the popular rings design from the Apple Watch and implement it in the Wallet app to help users manage balances and spending.
The Wall Street Journal said in February:
Engineers are working on new features for the Apple Wallet app that would encourage users to pay down their credit-card debt and manage their balances. Executives have discussed borrowing visual cues from Apple’s fitness-tracking app, where “rings” close as users hit daily exercise targets, and sending users notifications about their spending habits.
Other details, such as information about annual fees, is unknown at this point. A branded credit card certainly fits Apple’s new Services-first narrative, though.
Last but not least, expect Monday’s event to coincide with the public releases of iOS 12.2, watchOS 5.2, tvOS 12.2, and macOS 10.14.4. Apple could release these updates on Monday, or it could use Monday’s event to announce release dates for them. Nonetheless, we should learn a lot more about the latest Apple software on Monday.
Both iOS 12.2 and macOS 10.14.4, for instance, will likely include support for the enhanced Apple News subscription functionalities. The upgraded TV app will also likely be included in tvOS 12.2 and iOS 12.2. Other enhancements include Apple News in Canada, new Animoji, enhancements to the Wallet app, and more.
One headlining feature of iOS 12.2 is support for smart TVs as smart home accessories in the Home app. Earlier this year, LG, Sony, and Vizio announced HomeKit and AirPlay 2 support for select TVs, and iOS 12.2 includes that functionality – as well as enhancements to the Remote interface.
Apple March Event Wrap up
The focus of Apple’s March event is clearly on its Services segment, with a handful of hardware enhancements having been announced via press releases over the last week. Apple clearly doesn’t want hardware overshadowing its new Apple TV and News services, even if the services are simply previewed and not released.
9to5Mac will be in attendance at Steve Jobs Theater on Monday, so be sure to stay tuned for live coverage of everything Apple announces. What are you most excited to see next week? Do you plan to sign up for the subscription services? Let us know down in the comments below!