Netflix Killer? Here’s What Analysts Say About Apple TV Plus

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Helped by a low $5 price and a free subscription offer, Apple TV+ could attract as many as 10 million users within its first year, according to an analyst.

Dan Rayburn, the analyst for Frost & Sullivan who made the prediction, says the planned video-streaming service, which debuts Nov. 1, is likely to gain traction. Apple has a huge existing customer base that it can market the service to and deep pockets that allow it to take a long-term view in terms of profits.

“I think it’s very, very smart of Apple, and they’re going to have a great service at $5 a month with some great content,” says Rayburn.

The low price is a surprising move for Apple, which has traditionally charged the same or more for products than its rivals. But in the case of Apple TV+, Apple plans to charge less than competitors like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and the forthcoming Disney+, which arrives on Nov. 12 for $6.99 monthly on its own or $12.99 monthly as part of a bundle that includes ESPN and Hulu.

Furthermore, in trying to attract subscribers, Apple is going on a marketing binge. Everyone is eligible for a one-month free subscription while people who buy a new Apple device get an entire year for free.

Three analysts who Fortune spoke to don’t view Apple TV+ as a significant source of revenue for Apple, but rather another way for the tech giant to keep its users hooked on Apple products. For the time being, Apple can rely on and market other revenue streams, such as the iPhone, which generated $26 billion in revenue during the latest quarter, and its services business, which collected $11.5 billion.

“They [Apple] will make up the money in other ways,” says Rayburn. “Apple owns it all:  They own the ecosystem. Netflix doesn’t have that.”

What Netflix does have on Apple is a significant head start in the original content space. Since debuting its first major original series, House of Cards, in 2013, Netflix has poured tens of billions of dollars into the production of original series and films, including Stranger Things, The Crown, GLOW, Grace and Frankie, and this year’s highly-acclaimed Roma. Those projects helped cement Netflix as the go-to streaming service for over 151 million subscribers worldwide, despite a bumpy fiscal second quarter for the company that saw a decline of 126,000 paid U.S. subscribers.

Apple TV+, meanwhile, is expected to launch on Nov. 1 with at least nine new original series, including The Morning Show, with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carrell and See, a futuristic series with Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa. There’s very little in the way of legacy content, save for two shows: the poorly-reviewed reality show Planet of the Apps and the formulaic Carpool Karaoke.

Although Apple has announced at least 34 original series and five movies, with plans of rolling them out in the months after launch, that’s a small fraction of Netflix’s original content catalog overall. It’s also unclear whether Apple TV+ will include any licensed shows or films initially, but it’s looking unlikely.

“Apple’s aggressiveness with pricing and giving away subscriptions shows an appetite on the company’s part to play ball, but Netflix has been building a catalog for a long time, and it shows,” says Bernie McTernan, vice president at Rosenblatt Securities.

Krish Sankar, an analyst for Cowen, is particularly bullish about Apple TV+. In a note published on Wednesday, he estimates the streaming service could sign up as many as 9 million subscribers by the end of 2019 and 18 million by the end of 2020. But for Sankar, it’s “unclear” how many of those same users will cancel their subscriptions once their free year of service expires.

Although Netflix’s stock dipped 3% on Tuesday following the Apple TV+ announcement, Piper Jaffray analyst Mike Olson does not expect Apple to steal many Netflix users in the near term.  

“To me, it’s hard to imagine people canceling Netflix for a different competing service, let alone one that looks like it will only offer a handful of shows at the start,” adds Olson.

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