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Is Apple TV Plus launching in India worrisome for OTT players?

Apple TV+ (or Apple TV Plus) is an upcoming California-based video subscription service that will feature Apple's growing list of original TV shows and movies. It’s a web television service announced by Apple Inc. in 2019 during their March 25 Apple Special Event held at Steve Jobs Theater. It is an ad-free over-the-top subscription service because customer will be paying for it. 

Apple TV+ is not a standalone app but Apple's TV app will serve as a platform through which exclusive Apple TV+ content will be available to the subscribers to watch.  

But until now, the Apple TV app has always directed users to third-party apps to actually stream something but Apple now says that customers will be able to watch content directly inside the Apple TV app. This App is designed to be accessible to numerous consumer electronics devices and expected to extend to Apple's competitors as well, during 2019. 

The aim to launch Apple TV+ is to expand its service revenues by making recurring monthly charge and to distribute video content available widely to the public. It comes amid falling Apple phone sales globally. It is simultaneously announced with Apple TV Channels and it is a premium video subscription aggregation service. 

What Apple TV+ has to offer?

A special service will be provided to the buyers of new Apple devices viz. iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, or iPod touch where they will be offered a one-year free Apple TV+ subscription.

With the earlier announcement of making Apple TV+ compatible with ‘Family Sharing' at no extra charge, the fun becomes more. It means with a single subscription a total of six individuals — including you — can access all original series and films across all supported devices. Most originals will premiere with the first three episodes, followed by new episodes to be aired weekly.

Everything will be available to view right inside the Apple TV app and there would be no need to watch content from those channels across several different apps. It will also allow you to download shows for offline viewing.

Apple TV+ launching in India

In its strive for enlarging its basket of services, Apple TV+ is tapping Indian market as well and  now has come up with an India price and (official) release date — After a one-week trial, the iPhone maker's streaming service will cost Rs. 99 per month ($1.40 a month). It will be available from November 1, 2019 in more than 100 countries worldwide. 

Currently more than 30 platforms are flooding the Indian market in providing over-the-top video subscription services, including other US services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video along with a range of home-grown services such as Hotstar, ZEE5, ALTBalaji and Voot. Indian market is surely a great market to penetrate into but Apple TV+ is a late entrant to the already crowded market. It would become challenging for Apple TV+ to position itself in this market.

The second challenge is the extremely limited access to the service. Apple TV+ will be available on the Apple TV app, along with a seven-day free trial on Apple devices and newer Samsung smart TVs, and on Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony and Vizio platforms. However, according to the latest date, Apple accounts for only 1.6% of the smartphone market in India, where smart TVs comprise 30% of all television sales.

Abneesh Roy, senior vice president (research) of Edelweiss Securities said, “Apple TV+ will work only on iOS devices. India is predominantly an Android market. With such low penetration of Apple devices in India, the impact will be minimal.”

The next challenge is that the Apple TV+ library doesn’t have a lot to offer the Indian mass at the moment. The service at its launch will include only eight Hollywood original shows not including any Indian originals in the works. Wherein all other players in India, including Netflix and Amazon, are consciously making efforts to have original content in multiple local languages, including films and serials set in small towns featuring popular local faces whom Indian population can relate with. As per the latest news, OTT services together are slated to invest about ₹2,500 crore in the original content in India this year.

“Premium audiences may lap up the Hollywood content, but the service will find few takers without originals," Roy said.

For now the existing OTT service players in India perhaps see no reason to fear Apple TV+.

However, Apple has started opting for a strategic shift in its pricing strategy with discounts. It has realized the importance of reducing price entry barriers for the iOS ecosystem. In April, the phone maker decided to opt for price cuts in India and brought down the price of some of its devices like iPhone XR. Indian consumers eagerly welcomed the scheme. This may act as a solution to enter and make a place in Indian market. For now it seems a far cry from reality.

Apple has realized that it has to keep its existing users hooked to iOS system and now it’s time to attract non-Apple users as well. India is a country of 1.3 billion people and everybody has a room to play. It depends on how the market matures and if it does it can be a win-win situation for everybody.