Apple's media streaming service is arriving very soon, and tidbits are starting to emerge on just what the much-anticipated offering will look like.
The unnamed services offering is expected to be announced on March 25, when Apple (AAPL) is holding a special event at its Cupertino headquarters under the theme "It's show time." As Apple shifts emphasis away from hardware sales and into services -- its fastest-growing, and most profitable segment -- the forthcoming streaming service is viewed as an important linchpin of Apple's future growth.
According to a Bloomberg report Wednesday, Apple is racing to rack up media deals in advance of the March 25 event, with a deadline of Friday to ink television and film agreements that will flesh out Apple's original streaming content. Apple is reportedly in talks with AT&T (T) which owns HBO, CBS Corp (CBS) , which owns Showtime, Lions Gate Entertainment, which owns Starz, and others. The outside content would be offered alongside programming either funded, developed or purchased by Apple.
Apple's new services offerings are expected to include a magazine subscription bundle, to be sold separately from the video streaming service. An Apple credit card, created in conjunction with Goldman Sachs (GS) , may also be announced.
As Apple moves aggressively into services, however, successfully competing against formidable incumbents, namely Netflix (NFLX) , is a high-stakes proposition.
Throughout 2018, Apple revealed a handful of production partnerships with high-profile creators such as Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston and Steven Spielberg. But because many of those content initiatives are still in development, launching with a slate of popular outside content may make a big difference. Several of the programming deals Apple is pursuing are expected to go through, but parties are still haggling over the finer points according to Bloomberg. Apple is presumed to take a cut roughly comparable to its App store fees, equivalent to 25%-35% of subscriber fees.
According to Wedbush's Dan Ives, a realistic medium-term goal for Apple -- meaning three to five years out -- would be 100 million subscribers provided that it executes its media streaming plan with minimal speed bumps.
"While acquisitions have not been in Apple's core DNA, the clock has struck midnight for Cupertino in our opinion and building content organically is a slow and arduous path, which highlights the clear need for Apple to do larger, strategic M&A (a24, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures, CBS/Viacom, Netflix, MGM) around content over the coming year to double down and drive the services flywheel," Ives wrote.
Compared to Netflix, Amazon (AMZN) , Disney (DIS) and others, Apple is behind the ball on video streaming and will need to accumulate subscribers from scratch. At the same time, Apple has one not-so-secret weapon -- its loyal installed base of 1.4 billion active devices, including 900 million iPhones.
For investors, there's potentially a good deal to be gained from Apple's streaming ambitions.
If it were to add 100 million subscribers over the next few years by way of its streaming services, Ives estimated that could translate into an annual revenue stream of $7 billion to $10 billion over time. By comparison, Apple's services business brought in $10.9 billion in its most recent quarter, representing a year-over-year increase of 19%.
A successful streaming rollout could also mean a healthy boost to Apple's valuation over time, Ives noted.
"If Apple is successful with its latest streaming endeavor and reaches some of these potential subs/revenues numbers annually we estimate, this will add roughly $15 per share to our SOTP [sum of the parts] valuation on Apple," he added.
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