Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple TV sales are “very strong”. He expects to see “dramatic changes” in the content industry and predicts that cord cutting will accelerate. He also hinted strongly at a new TV service.
Apple’s position in the home
The remarks came during Apple’s earnings call for the second quarter of 2018 (Apple’s fiscal Q3 2018). It is not often that the CEO talks about Apple TV during these calls as it is small business compared to iPhone, iPad, and Mac, but the company clearly has grander ambitions for TV.
- “[…] cord cutting in our view is only going to accelerate and probably accelerate at a much faster rate than is widely thought,” said Tim Cook, Apple CEO.
He used the opportunity to point out that the sales trend for Apple TV hardware is encouraging in terms of both units and revenue that “grew by very strong double-digits” in the second quarter of 2018. The company launched the Apple TV 4K in September 2017.
- “tvOS 12 will take the cinematic experience of Apple TV 4K to the next level this fall with support for Dolby Atmos audio and new features to easily find popular shows and movies. Apple TV 4K already offers customers the largest collection of 4K HDR movies and this fall, iTunes will be the home to the largest collection of Dolby Atmos supported movies anywhere,” he said during his opening statement.
Apple did not provide numbers for unit sales but analyst company Conviva recently said that Apple TV usage in the first quarter of 2018 was up 709% year-over-year.
A lot has been said about smart speakers for the home and media streaming players in recent years based on Amazon Alexa’s strong momentum. Tim Cook sees things a little differently and points out that Apple’s “home business is bigger than the HomePod and Apple TV”. People also use their iPhone and Apple Watch at home and “in terms of the Siri access points, there's an extraordinary amount of usage of these products that are used to perform home-related functions“, he said. Siri requests have already exceeded 100 billion so far this year.
Apple’s ambitions for TV
Apple TV can be used to access services such as Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and YouTube, in addition to Apple’s iTunes movie store. Apple does not have a TV subscription service to go along with its Apple Music service but Tim Cook hinted strongly that Apple is working on something.
- “We hired two highly respected television executives last year and they have been here now for several months and have been working on a project that we're not really ready to share all the details of it yet but I couldn't be more excited about what's going on there,” Tim Cook replied when asked about Apple’s original content strategy.
Those two executives are Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, formerly of Sony Pictures Television, and while Cook declined to go into further detail, Apple has already announced a handful of TV shows, including a multi-year partnership with Oprah Winfrey. Of course, Apple TV would be an ideal platform for an ‘Apple TV’ streaming service, besides the more than one billion handheld iOS devices in use out there.
- “And so, all the forcing functions here from the outside all point to dramatic changes speeding up in the content industry and so we're really happy to be working on something, just not ready to talk about it in depth today,” Cook said.
Apple had yet another strong quarter with quarterly revenue of $53.3 billion, of which $9.55 billion came from services (up 31% year-on-year) such as iTunes, Apple Music, the App Store, iCloud, and more. Apple now has “well over 50 million” Apple Music subscribers so users clearly have an appetite for media content.
So, what is next for Apple TV? Judging from Tim Cook’s remarks, our guess would be something big.