Apple is reportedly planning to sell bundles of pay TV channels at a discount

Pieces of Apple’s video-streaming puzzle are slowly but surely falling into place ahead of the March 25 reveal, with a new report offering previously unknown tidbits concerning channel bundles and video hosting.

According to Peter Kafka of Recode, Apple will reportedly host the streams because it wants to both ensure a hassle-free experience and own crucial viewership data. That would be in stark contrast to the current app-based approach where companies like Netflix offer subscription apps on the tvOS App Store where they appear alongside other apps and games.

One under-the-covers change that matters to Apple and its partners: With the new video storefront/service, Apple will host and serve the streams, which means it will have primary access to the viewing data its users generate.

Under the previous model, streaming video apps Apple offered essentially redirected users back to the streamers’ own hosting service. Streamers who work with Apple in the new setup will have to be comfortable with Apple owning the primary relationship with their audience.

While many, many video apps already integrate with the TV app, playback takes place inside a channel app rather than within the confines of the TV app’s interface. Hosting and serving third-party video streams would permit Apple to do just that so you could, say, click an upcoming show in the TV app and watch it right there and then.

And, as it already does on its TV app, Apple will be able to show users what’s playing on services they subscribe to and surface stuff they may be interested in.

One major issue I see: all those individual subscriptions add up. This is one of the primary reasons why so many people remain reluctant to pay more than two or three video subscriptions. Apple is aware of that as it’s reportedly secured rights to combine individual channels into a single offering:

It’ll also be able to offer its own bundles. For instance, it could offer a package of HBO, Showtime and Starz at a price that’s lower than you’d pay for each pay TV service on its own.

There will be a dedicate store to buy the channels:

The difference, say people who’ve talked to Apple about its plans, is that instead of selling TV subscription apps surrounded by millions of other apps in its main app store, Apple plans on making a new storefront that’s much more prominent for those who use Apple TV boxes and other Apple hardware.

This wholesale/retail business model will have Apple, not the streamers, set the price for the channels it sells in that new store.

Apple will show its hand in video streaming next Monday

The article notes that the company is unlikely to undercut partners by, say, selling HBO for less than HBO sells itself on rival platforms like Roku. The iPhone maker “definitely” plans to sell bundles of pay TV channels at a discount, “just like pay TV operators have always done”.

For those wondering, Netflix CEO Reed Hasting said Monday his company won’t join Apple’s service anytime soon because Netflix wants to control its experience within its own app.

Apple is a great company. We want to have people watch our content on our service. We’ve chosen not to integrate into their service. You do your best job when you have great competitors.

Netflix, mind you, is the biggest holdout from the TV app.

Kafka summed up the whole Apple video-streaming rumor very succinctly:

One thing Apple won’t do is unveil a serious competitor to Netflix, Hulu, Disney or any other entertainment giant trying to sell streaming video subscriptions to consumers.

Instead, Apple’s main focus—at least for now—will be helping helping other people sell streaming video subscriptions, and taking a cut of the transaction. Apple may also sell its own shows, at least as part of a bundle of other services. But for now, Apple’s original shows and movies should be considered very expensive giveaways, not the core product.

That is much less exciting than ‘Apple Takes on Netflix in the Streaming Wars,’ but it is an accurate description. Even worse for people interested in exciting narratives: Apple has already been helping people sell video subscriptions and taking a cut of the transaction for years.

Much less exciting but way more accurate than saying, “Apple takes on Netflix”. At any rate, Kafka’s is the most sensible take on the whole Apple video-streaming rumor I’ve read so far.

Kafka also notes separately that Facebook appears to be trying to sign up potential partners to sell TV subscriptions through its own video platform, launching later this spring or summer.

Who’s looking forward to a video-subscription service from Apple?