SVOD battle to ramp up as Apple TV+ sets Nov 1 launch date

Apple will launch its streaming service in Australia on November 1, stealing Disney+’s thunder by a matter of weeks.

The Australian launch of Apple TV+ is part of a simultaneous 100 country roll out. Pricing and trial offers are characteristically Apple in their competitiveness, with the SVOD service launching at AUD$7.99 per month and a year-long trial period for consumers purchasing a new Apple device on sign up. At this price point, it is cheaper than competitors Netflix, Stan and Disney+, which will launch November 19 in Australia.

Apple TV+ will initially be available on all Apple devices, online via the Apple TV app and additionally supported by Samsung smart TVs. It will then be interoperable at later date with devices including LG, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Sony. Apple originally announced the Apple TV+ platform and its international ambitions in March.

The Apple SVOD platform will launch with a modest but star power-backed range of original content. Among them is the big budget morning talk show dramedy The Morning Show starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. Variety reports that the show was commissioned for two seasons at US$300 million.

Also on the launch slate is the reboot of Steven Spielberg’s anthology Amazing Stories; Oprah Winfrey’s doco Toxic Labour; Sara Bareilles/J.J. Abrams dramedy Little Voice; a docu-drama of poet Emily Dickinson Dickinson, the Sophia Coppola/Bill Murray film On The Rocks and Little America, a series based on factual immigrant tales from Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon.

Down the line, audiences can look forward to Paramount Television and Anonymous Content’s Shantaram. A 10-part adaptation of adaptation of Gregory David Roberts’ novel by the same name, the series is due kick off production in Victoria in October thanks to federal and state government incentives.

Justin Kurzel will direct the first two episodes of the series, which follows Lindsay, a bank robber and heroin addict who escapes from Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison and flees to India. Produced by Steve Golin and Nicole Clemens and scripted by Eric Warren Singer, filming will take place at Docklands Studios, Pentridge Prison and other locations, some of which will substitute for Mumbai.

Apple’s biggest Australian market challenge will be for the SVOD to source unique content and make it “sticky”, given the range of choice already available in a saturated content market. Local analysts claim that the fresh local SVOD war will be content-led, rather than platform-based.

The Australian SVOD market reached 12.3 million total subscriptions at the end of June 2019, according analyst firm, Telsyte.

“It doesn’t take much to capture the imagination of the Australian SVOD subscriber, with very few trialists ending their subscription,” says Telsyte MD Foad Fadaghi.

“The free one-year trial offer, is a strong lure compared to the competition and gives them a big runway to introduce content progressively as opposed to having it in the library from day one. It is a sticky package offering that will be compelling to consumers.”

Fadaghi forecasts that Apple should do well in the local streaming market due to its existing overall brand traction but that may not be enough to rumble the competitive status quo.

“Stan is a strong player in the market and remains number two (after Netflix) in our research. I don’t think the new providers will impact market share significantly. They are likely to be a net add to the market rather than a consumer shift from one to the other,” Fadaghi claims.

The Telsyte Australian Entertainment Subscription Study 2019 positions Netflix as the market leader with around 4.9 million subscriptions, with Stan at number two hitting the 1.7 million mark at the end of June 2019.