Apple Reinvents Amazon Video, Intends To Replace Your Roku Interface*

Given Apple’s prior Apple TV app moves, such as cable single sign on, it comes as no surprise that the company would continue efforts aggregating content from disparate sources for a better user experience. And, as announced this week, what benefits us will presumably also benefit them given plans to allow in-app subscriptions and associated sales commissions. And if you think it sounds a lot like Amazon Channels, you’d be right. However, Apple’s attempting to elevate it all to another level. But, again, that’s to be expected.

The shocking, and significant, news is that Apple will be releasing an Apple TV app for a slew of hardware … that isn’t their own, including Roku and Fire TV. I get they need a larger footprint to sell access to upcoming, original video. But they’re bringing ALL of the Apple TV app…. including iTunes purchases or rentals, services (like Hulu or Showtime) subscribed directly through Apple elsewhere, etc. I mean if they sign enough partners, you could basically live in this app — Apple TV, as an app, on Roku Television will pretty darn compelling for many.

The updated Apple TV app debuts in May on Apple products and Samsung televisions, with additional platform support showing up later. Now if we could only get iMessage on Android and YouTube on Fire TV…

UPDATE: In what turns out to be a major marketing blunder, Apple has revised Apple TV app copy from “watch” to “discover” in regards to Hulu, Prime, ESPN+, MLB, ABC, NBC and others. Which makes this offering significantly less compelling — it won’t be a central hub for viewing, but merely a deep linking tool that’ll access other applications, presumably only available on Apple TV hardware. So it really does look to be an Amazon Video rehash on 3rd party platforms – access to iTunes purchases or rentals, partner channel subscriptions like Showtime, and “Apple TV+” original video content with tbd pricing or bundling.


15 thoughts on “Apple Reinvents Amazon Video, Intends To Replace Your Roku Interface*”

  1. I realize this is way down the line, but I’m curious if the “free” 4K upgrade only applies to the proper Apple TV hardware or if this would let me watch my iTunes library in 4K on my Roku.

  2. One of the aspects of this we heard several weeks ago was that 2018 models of Samsung smart TV will support the Apple TV integration after an update. I’m hoping to hear soon that that’s still true, and could then go ahead and buy a TV.

    If I need to wait for May to buy a new Samsung that will definitely support this, so be it, but it would be nice not to have to.

  3. I still have no idea what I’d be paying for?!??! It seems like an elaborate aggregation service with *minimal* original content. And that’s kind of what my Apple TV already does now with my Spectrum cable service.

    It won’t have regular series like Hulu does with American Dad, Seinfeld, and Family Guy? Right? Just a few artsy projects that certainly don’t seem worth very much per month.

  4. Dolf, Apple announced two things, with have some overlap.

    1) Apple TV app that aggregates content. App is free.
    2) Apple original video content, that can be accessed through the Apple TV app. Not clear how this will be priced. If you subscribe to two services within Apple TV app, is it free? Is it its own $7.99/mo thing? Hasn’t been disclosed yet. And they may still be figuring it out.

    Hulu is one of their Apple TV app partners. But many open questions — if I subscribe to Hulu on my own, can I link it into the Apple TV app? Or do I only get access if subscribing via Apple? Considering Amazon Prime is listed as a partner, I’m betting you can link up after the fact.

  5. Mark,

    If the Apple TV app on Roku is 4K compatible, you should be good.

    While it won’t do you any good on the upgrades, you should also be sure to create a Movies Anywhere account and link it to your iTunes for any 4K purchases you made.

  6. Dave Zatz said:

    “Hulu is one of their Apple TV app partners. But many open questions — if I subscribe to Hulu on my own, can I link it into the Apple TV app? Or do I only get access if subscribing via Apple? Considering Amazon Prime is listed as a partner, I’m betting you can link up after the fact.”

    Hulu is already one of Apple’s TV app partners on tvOS, and yes, you simply allow the TV app to access streaming data from Hulu. I don’t know how that’ll work on a smart TV or Roku/Fire TV device, but I’m assuming there will be an option to link up after the fact.

    Hulu will not be one of the Apple TV Channels, and sadly, according to The Verge and Hulu, the TV app will act as it currently does and simply forward you to the Hulu app unlike the subscriptions purchased through Channels, etc.

  7. Alan, I’m not talking about the stand alone tvOS Hulu app. The Hulu logo is prominently displayed on the Apple TV app promo page, along with the following:

    “Easily watch all your favorite shows from streaming services including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, ESPN+, and more — all inside the app.”

    Although, as we know, there are still many unanswered questions. Didn’t see Verge’s article.

  8. Dave,

    Yeah, that was pointed out to me on Apple’s website yesterday after I, maybe incorrectly, maybe not, stated that the whole within the app thing only applied to Apple TV+ and Apple TV Channels. After it was pointed out to me, I thought I stood corrected until I read this article a bit ago:

    “Other apps — even those with shows featured in the TV app like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video — will still require you to move over to their own apps to watch something. Apple’s website is a bit misleading on this, hinting that users will be able to “easily watch” Hulu “inside the app.” A Hulu spokesperson has directly confirmed to The Verge that this is not the case. ” – The Verge

  9. For business (and maybe technical/coding) reasons, I really doubt that the upcoming Apple TV app for Roku or Fire TV will have the deep-linking/hand-off-to-3rd-party-apps feature that makes the existing Apple TV app on Apple TV boxes such a convenient hub for aggregating content from about 100 different sources. I’m pretty sure that would require cooperation from not only Roku/Amazon but also all of the third-party apps that the Apple TV app might work with. (Note that Netflix and YouTube choose NOT to work with the existing app on Apple hardware, so that feature does require app providers to opt in.)

    I doubt that Roku wants you to “live inside” the Apple TV app on Roku’s own devices, Dave. My prediction is that the Apple TV app on Roku and Fire TV won’t surface any content other than what Apple streams from their own servers: Apple TV+, Apple TV Channels (e.g. HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, etc.), and iTunes purchases and rentals. The Up Next watchlist, curated recommendation lists, etc. will consist only of titles from those sources. You’ll probably be able to initiate a subscription to Apple TV+ inside of that app (with a cut of the monthly cost going to Roku or Amazon) but I doubt you’ll be able to initiate subscriptions to Apple TV Channels there since Amazon and Roku both have similar programs. Same goes for iTunes purchases and rentals; you’ll have to make the transaction on another device, then come back to there to watch. (Well, maybe Roku allows iTunes transaction — not sure of their policy — but Amazon won’t.) Basically, think about how the Prime Video app works on Apple TV and that’s pretty much how the Apple TV app will work on Fire TV and Roku. (But the Apple TV app will of course have better UI design than the Prime Video app, although that’s not saying much).

  10. Alan, NashGuy, All I got to go on is Apple’s press release and the promo page. If it’s incomplete or inaccurate, and it very well could be, that’s on Apple. The press release calls it “suggestions” which could be deep linking – if so, I agree that likely wouldn’t happen on most 3rd party platforms. However, the promo page says “Easily watch all your favorite shows from streaming services including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, ESPN+, and more — all inside the app” – which is pretty darn specific.

  11. Well, the semantics are tricky in describing how stuff like this works and, as someone who’s written ad/marketing copy for software, I know that you can’t expect such copy to explain details in the same way as a technical user manual or FAQ. But I do think the wording you quote from Apple is misleading — you won’t be *watching* content from Amazon, Hulu, or ESPN+ inside of the Apple TV app on any hardware platform but you will *see* graphical “listings” of their content inside of the app, at least on Apple hardware (TBD on non-Apple hardware). Clicking on a listing will take you right to the content inside its native app, which is where the video stream will be presented. That’s how the Apple TV app has always worked. The only thing that’s going to change going forward is that you will be able to actually watch content streamed directly from Apple’s servers right inside the TV app itself — that content being the Apple TV+ SVOD, Apple TV Channels SVODs, and iTunes rentals and purchases.

  12. I don’t pay for CBS through the Apple TV app but it still knows it’s there and how to use it. When choosing playback of CBS content from the TV app, the switch over is nearly invisible. The TV app is just a hub collecting things I’m sure from an XML backend.

  13. Right, but that’s not how this was initially presented and we don’t know if the deep linking will be available on non-Apple hardware or when. It was a botched announcement and looks to be a chaotic launch (given the above and chatter surrounding partners).

  14. The Apple Keynote this week felt like it was made to declare they will be a “thing” and appeal to Hollywood and draw in talent and production houses whom are catering heavily towards Netflix and Amazon.

    Just like most of Apple’s management, I’m a late 40s GenXer and all the talent they presented was the same or older!

    Especially given The lack of details on how Apple TV+ is going to work, it reinforced that this is Going to be a thing and attempt to bring mind share to it….especially with A list production and actors who’ve been caught in this vacuum and tsunami of cash directed to streaming services and away from traditional movie production.

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