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Apple’s 'Netflix killer' won’t trouble the streaming service - but it shows bigger ambition

James Titcomb
Apple has launched a new streaming service to rival Netflix and Amazon - Apple

Apple’s “Netflix killer” has been a long time coming. The company has spent years going back and forth with Hollywood, attempting to figure out what exactly an Apple TV streaming service should look like.

But after today's announcement, which featured enough Hollywood royalty for an awards show - and Sesame Street’s Big Bird - perhaps Netflix killer is the wrong phrase.

Apple’s TV Plus, the long-awaited streaming service, does not seem like a plan to take on Netflix directly. It is certainly not a fully-fledged alternative.

The company is yet to reveal the monthly price of the service, but whatever it costs will buy you only a handful of programmes at first. The company has not licensed any existing TV shows, as Netflix has successfully done with staples such as Friends and Breaking Bad.

Instead, its effort is focused on quality, rather than quantity. We will have to wait until autumn’s release to judge that claim, but what we do know suggests it might be hard pressed to convince customers that it represents value for money. Apple’s rumoured $1bn original content budget is a tenth of Netflix’s planned investment in original content this year, and also well below that of Amazon’s.

That may be a smart move. Apple is used to profit margins well above those of Netflix, and is not the type to get into a spending war.

Instead, its game plan appears to be to use the programming as a way to entice users into its own TV app, which will become the portal through which you watch all your other subscriptions.

The company has done deals with a group of other services - known as Apple Channels - that will see it sell access to programming from US networks such as HBO and Showtime, which will appear on the central Apple TV app.

The company’s pitch is that instead of you having to poke through different menus and apps to find the show you’re looking for, it can become the one-stop shop for everything you want to watch.

That is the idea. Execution is another matter altogether. For one thing, Apple’s portal will be far from comprehensive, with Netflix declining to take part. Disney, which is launching its own streaming service later this year, may also forge its own path.

Betting against Apple is rarely a smart move, but the lack of a price for its own service suggests it is yet to have everything worked out. In an increasingly crowded streaming market, it may be tough to stand out.