CUPERTINO — Every year, Apple summons the press to its campus here to tout new features of an iPhone, and pours it on to convince us that we have to upgrade to the new model.
For its new entertainment service, TV+, Apple took a different approach. No details or news on how much it will cost. Instead, it just trotted out its star talent, like Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, to hype us.
Because selling stars, not technology features, is clearly how Apple plans to get consumers to pay to watch yet another subscription service.
The service is from your friend Apple, and it promises bigger star-power than Netflix or Amazon.
That is, debatable. Amazon has Julia Roberts starring in the series Homecoming, and Netflix has put its big-name money on comedians like Amy Schumer, Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, talent like Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin and movies with the likes of Sandra Bullock and, of course, Roma, which many Oscars.
Netflix and Amazon market by telling us we’ll find stuff we want to watch and have a good time. Apple’s pitch is a variation on the old MGM boast from the 1943 Hollywood heyday that it had “more stars than are in heaven,” under contract.
Cook even ended his presentation with a variation of the old MGM photo, assembling his star talent for a massive group photo.
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Apple describes TV+ as ” the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers featuring exclusive original shows, movies and documentaries.”
Beyond Spielberg and Winfrey, Apple brought out actors Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carrell, who are starring in a series set in the world of morning TV, musician Sara Bareilles, director JJ Abrams, comedian Kumail Nanjiani and actor Jason Momoa from Game of Thrones and the film Aquaman.
Just like the public every year is expected to go with Apple and trust that the new iPhone is better than the old one, or that an Apple Music service that seems so much like Spotify is better because it comes from Apple, welcome to the club, TV+.
The big question going into the event was how Apple would price it. Lower than Netflix, like CBS All Access, which starts at $5.99, or competitive, in the $9.99 and up area?
Consumers are naturally wary about forking over additional money for more subscription services.
Whatever Apple comes up with “is a bit much when there are already other similar platforms,” said James Griffin on our Facebook page.
“I love Oprah, so I want it, but it depends a bit on the pricing plan, as I already have other services,” said Leslie Nakajima, on Twitter.
Justin Shiltz, also on Twitter, said he didn’t think just having big stars would be enough of an inducement to sign up.
Analyst Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies thinks when you add up all of Apple’s services – which includes Music, iCloud, the new Arcade gaming platform, TV+ and News +, a magazine subscription offering – the grand total for consumers will be between $40 and $55 monthly.
Peter Csathy, the chairman of consultancy CreatTV, pegs it as between $9.99 and $14.99 monthly.
Beyond selling the stars, Csathy says Apple doesn’t have to market as hard as competitors because of its 1.4 billion iPhone base. “At the push of a button, Apple has a ready audience willing to try something new.”
However, he notes that the presentation was targeted to older audiences, with talent that made their marks decades ago – like Spielberg and Winfrey. “Where was the pitch tech-savvy millennials that this was something new?”
Maybe Apple doesn’t need to worry. It has the Apple Stores to reach them, after all.
But will they know who Spielberg and Oprah are?
Apple says it will announce pricing and availability for TV+ in the fall.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham