How will Apple distribute its original TV shows? Here are three theories

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Apple still hasn't spelled out how you'll be able to watch its TV shows.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The biggest question mark currently hanging over Apple’s original TV plans is how exactly Apple plans to distribute it. With the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg in tow, there’s no doubt that Apple has managed to rope in some impressive names for its video content. But how will users be able to watch it?

Here are a few theories.

Over the weekend, Recode published an article, offering some of “theories and thoughts TV and media executives have about Apple’s content plans.” These break down into three approaches.

Some expect Apple to make content available for free as part of its TV app, which is installed by default on its devices. Apple has reportedly told some industry execs that it will strengthen its TV hub by “making it a focal point to sell subscriptions to other companies’ TV services, as Amazon already does.”

Another theory is that Apple will wrap its services into one giant subscription service, also including the likes of Apple Music and AppleCare. Apple has been pushing to grow its Services division for some time now. Apple Music on its own has grown to around 50 million users. That’s certainly impressive, although it’s only around half the total number of paying subscribers to Amazon Prime. An “Apple Prime” service could conceivably challenge Amazon Prime in terms of adoption.

The final theory is that Apple will launch its original content as a Netflix-style streaming subscription service, although one that is priced below Netflix — meaning less than $11 per month in the U.S.

Apple’s original TV ambitions

Ultimately, the fact that there are three separate theories means that nobody knows exactly what Apple will do. Although it is alluded to that there are sources informing these theories, it’s not clear who they are or who they have been speaking with. Presumably Apple has a good idea of its distribution plans, though there’s the possibility that it’s still weighing up its options — the same way it produces multiple iPhone prototypes each year before narrowing these down.

So far, the closest thing we might have to an indication of Apple’s plans is a recent agreement. This month, Apple signed a Writers Guild of America master contract promising writers greater benefits for shows that air for free online. That is in contrast to the subscription model that companies like Netflix have employed.

Apple has so far signed at least 16 different TV shows into development — in addition to the non-scripted series such as Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps the company has already released. However, it has also ventured into other types of content production and distribution including documentaries, music videos, a possible animated feature film, and more.