Apple takes on Amazon Prime and Netflix

New content: (Clockwise from top left) Jennifer Aniston; sci-fi series Amazing Stories; Steven Spielberg; crime adaptation Defending Jacob; Oprah Winfrey; true crime show Are You Sleeping?

Last night, Apple announced that it will create original shows and films for its hotly-anticipated streaming platform, Apple TV+. Should traditional TV still have a place?

“There has never been a moment quite like this one,” said Oprah Winfrey as she stood onstage in California yesterday.

The US chat show host was announcing Apple’s hugely anticipated streaming service with CEO Tim Cook.

Winfrey and other Hollywood stars like Steven Spielberg have signed up to make shows for Apple TV+, which will launch this autumn. Apple is investing $1 billion to create its own original content.

Upcoming projects include true crime series Are you sleeping?, and Little America, which will explore the lives of immigrants.

The change of direction comes amid falling iPhone sales as Apple faces strong competition from Chinese giant Huawei.

But competition is fierce. The new platform will compete with established giants like Amazon and Netflix, as well as a brand new Disney streaming service that is expected to launch this year.

Netflix has almost 150 million subscribers worldwide. Every month, YouTube reaches 40 million Britons.

Meanwhile, viewer numbers for scheduled TV are tumbling. Last year, streaming overtook traditional TV for the first time ever among UK viewers.

This new age of commercial, personalised TV is putting Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) under threat.

According to Ofcom, the purpose of PSB is “to reflect the UK back to itself, bring the nation together at key moments, and inform and educate society.” PSB programmes range from live news to arts documentaries or home-grown dramas like ITV’s Victoria.

Since 1936, the BBC has been the country’s flagship PSB provider. Over the decades its broadcasts have unified the country at important moments, from royal weddings and World Cups to general elections.

But that tradition is crumbling. Today, more young people in Britain have heard of YouTube and Netflix than the BBC. Among 16 to 24-year-olds, live TV news viewing plummeted by 29% between 2008 and 2014.

There could be serious consequences.

“PSB is more important today than it’s ever been,” says Royal Television Society president Sir Peter Bazalgette. “Important to our democracy, to our culture and to our economy.”

Inform. Educate. Entertain.

Can Public Service Broadcasting survive? Should it? Ofcom is encouraging the BBC to compete and collaborate across the world with streaming giants. If numbers keep falling, Why should the public have to pay a licence fee for a service they don’t want? Will all channels one day be subscription services like Netflix?

The proponents of PSB say that TV plays an important role in education, culture and citizenship, especially in the age of unregulated, fake news. Will the death of PSB make us more isolated and divided? Or is the streaming revolution encouraging better, more diverse content across the board?

You Decide

  1. Has streaming been good for TV?
  2. Should TV always “inform, educate and entertain”?

Activities

  1. Write a timeline of the development of television through the 20th century.
  2. What is the best programme on TV, including streaming services, and why? Write 500 words.

Some People Say...

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Groucho Marx

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Apple TV+ is expected to cost £9.99 a month. US chat show host Oprah Winfrey will front a series of documentaries for the new service, the first of which will look into the “scourge and toll of sexual harassment in the workplace”. Steven Spielberg is also producing a revival of his sci-fi anthology series, Amazing Stories.
What do we not know?
Whether Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) has a sustainable future. In its latest report, regulator Ofcom recognises the challenges facing the BBC and other PSB survivors, but points out that the form has survived many upheavals in the 20th century like the digital switch-over and the growth of Freeview. The report concludes that the BBC can succeed by innovating its programming to appeal to young viewers and other groups who are turning away from PSB.

Word Watch

Original
An Apple TV app already exists, but currently it only hosts shows from other services like Amazon Prime and iPlayer.
Huawei
This company’s links to the Chinese state are a source of controversy. Huawei is aiming to play a central role in the global roll-out of 5G technology, but many countries have barred Huawei’s participation in building the network over fears it could be used for surveillance by the Chinese state.
Ofcom
An independent body that regulates broadcasting and the media.
Documentaries
PSB is intended to benefit the public rather than to serve commercial interests. Many arts, culture, religious and educational programmes are considered a public service. An example of a religious programme is Songs of Praise on BBC One.
Flagship
ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 also produce PSB content.
29%
According to Ofcom’s report.