Apple culture-tech news, the rise of vertical videos, & more

The big news this week was Apple’s event to announce the latest iPhone models, along with other new products. Of particular interest to culture-tech fans was two new subscription services: Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade (mobile gaming). My takes below…

What You Need To Know 👀

  1. Apple TV+ costs $4.99 per month and launches on November 1 📺

From VentureBeat:

“Apple TV+ will cost $4.99 per month with a free seven-day trial when it launches worldwide on November 1. (Customers get one free year with the purchase of an Apple device starting September 10.) As previously promised, it’ll be advertising-free and available for both online and offline viewing across over 100 countries through the Apple TV app, which comes preinstalled on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and iPod touch and soon on Mac with macOS Catalina. The Apple TV app is also available on select Samsung smart TVs, and will come to Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony, and Vizio platforms in the future.”

My take: The catch is that on launch, Apple TV+ will offer only nine tv shows – vastly less than competitors like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. More will be released over the coming months, as Apple is reportedly spending “upwards of $6 billion in developing over 25 different TV shows and movies for Apple TV+.” There was no mention of licensed content to pad out the library, so that’s it for now. Ultimately, this slow build of new tv shows won’t matter, since most new subscribers will come from the one free year offered to anyone who buys a new Apple device – which of course nicely ties in with Apple’s other product announcements this week: new iPhones, iPads and Apple Watch 5. It effectively gives Apple TV+ a year to ramp up its content to truly compete with Netflix et al.

  1. Apple Arcade is launching on September 19th for $4.99 a month 🎮

Another new Apple subscription offering announced this week was its mobile games service. The Verge reports:

“Apple Arcade will be launching in more than 150 countries on September 19th, for a monthly fee of $4.99 and with support for Apple’s Family Sharing feature. The company will launch with a one-month free trial, and it will arrive with more than 100 titles.”

My take: It’s interesting to note that the more than 100 games featured in Arcade are exclusive and not available on the App Store. So it will depend on the quality of those games as to whether people are willing to pay for the service. It’s also worth noting Apple’s push of the Family Sharing feature, suggesting it’s a way for parents to keep their kids happy fairly cheaply – that is, without needing to shell out for a separate Nintendo or similar mobile gaming device for each child. Although as gaming fan Erin Ashley Simon pointed out:

  1. The rise of vertical videos & other music video innovations 🎹

The Ringer writes:

“…Spotify has reinvented the once-lambasted 9:16 vertical video format for the modern musician. Since the platform first debuted a vertical video for Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar” in May 2017, it has experimented with the medium as a way to both boost its signature playlists (like RapCaviar or Rock This) and enhance anticipated releases from major artists ranging from Nicki Minaj to the viral country sensation Mason Ramsey. At the start of 2019, the company introduced a feature called Canvas, which allows musicians to attach looping, Vine-like animated videos to individual tracks—a tool that artists began using as a way to repurpose footage from their music videos in a snappier, digestible format.”

My take: I’ve begun noticing more of these “vertical videos” in Spotify this year. Particularly when I select a playlist, I see that some of the songs play with video accompaniment. But as The Ringer points out, these aren’t necessarily the type of music videos MTV used to play and that you now find on YouTube. The vertical video format includes new, TikTok-like short looped videos, a format that the popular artists of today – like Taylor Swift and teen sensation Billie Eilish – are taking advantage of. It’s great to see the music video evolving, after years of neglect post-MTV.

  1. Netflix loses title as No. 1 bandwidth-eating application 🦖

Variety reports:

“For years, Netflix has ranked as the biggest application in terms of bandwidth consumption on internet networks, particularly during peak-period hours.

But now Netflix has dropped to second place globally behind web-based media streaming apps, as video consumption overall continues to climb, according to the 2019 Global Internet Phenomena Report from Sandvine, a vendor of bandwidth-management systems.”

My take: This article got a lot of kick-back in Variety’s comments section. Firstly there was confusion about what “web-based media streaming apps” is; turns out it means all websites that offer streaming video. That’s probably millions of sites and likely includes a good deal of p0rn and other dodgy streaming video (e.g. pirated movies and tv shows). Many commenters also complained that it’s an apples and oranges comparison – how can you compare a single service (Netflix) to an aggregate count of millions of websites? But culturally, I think the point is a good one: Netflix is no longer single-handedly the number one bandwidth hog.

Data Points 📊

  • Adobe via Marketing Charts: About 1 in 4 Consumers Say They’ve Made A Purchase After Hearing A Podcast Ad 🛍️

  • Digiday Research: Subscription publishers’ biggest challenges, in five charts (RM: all I can say is, I relate!) 🗞️

  • Variety: ‘Stranger Things 3’ Helping Fuel Netflix Q3 Subscriber Lift, Analysts Suggest 📈

  • What’s New in Publishing: What’s the only “news app” young people use daily? Reddit; “No news app was in the top 25 for apps used daily, outside of Reddit.” 📱

  • Leichtman Research Group (LRG): The number of US households with a subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service has now reached 74%, continuing its steady rise from 69% last year, 64% in 2017 and 59% in 2016. 📺

Tweet of the day 🐦

The new iPhone model added an extra camera 🤷

That’s the latest subscriber update, hope you found it useful. See you next week! Your early support of Cybercultural is much appreciated. 🙏