A couple of years ago, I picked up one of those small, black, Apple TV boxes. It seemed to make sense since I already had an iPad and an iPhone – and it was a simple way to ‘bounce’ web content to the flatscreen TV in my living room. I used it occasionally to watch YouTube, or even giant versions of my photo archives in iPhoto.
Then Amazon Fire TV was introduced. It was $100, so I figured why not? Cut to today. My Amazon Fire gets used almost every night, and the Apple TV hasn’t been switched on for months. Why? Original content.
Aside from ‘Transparent’ and ‘Mozart in the Jungle’, Amazon just released 13 new pilots – all available through $99 a year Amazon Prime. One is produced by Ridley Scott, and is based on a story by Philp K. Dick. Amazon has also inked a deal with Woody Allen to produce his first-ever series for television. In other words, Amazon is now behaving like a full-fledged Hollywood production studio. (Remember when they just sold books?)
The other brand that jumped into original content with both feet is Netflix. Programming that began with the critically acclaimed ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Orange is the New Black’ will expand with at least two dozen new original shows in 2015. Today, one investment analyst (John Blackledge) upgraded his Netflix stock rating, siting ‘rising original content’ as the primary reason.
So let’s return to my lonely Apple TV box for a minute. The company that makes it reported to have over $200 billion of ‘cash on hand’. Imagine if they decided to take say, 10% of that – $20 billion – and put it into original content development. With that kind of funding, and with the right talent, they could outflank Netflix, Amazon and probably most major studios in total viewers. And what’s more, like Netflix and Amazon, they could charge for the service – creating another substantial revenue stream.
One observer noted last year that Apple had enough money to ‘colonize Mars’. It seems to me that getting into the original content business would be a bit more practical, and a lot more profitable.