Can Jennifer Aniston and Oprah Winfrey save Apple's TV+?
Recruiting 'friend' Jennifer Aniston, sometime superhero Jason Momoa, and living legend Oprah Winfrey is not something you do on a whim.
Apple is throwing big money on the screen for its entry into video streaming tomorrow but, according to experts, it won't guarantee that the tech giant wins an audience for long.
Streaming entertainment has exploded in Australia over the last four years, and the battle for eyeballs is growing even more intense.
While Apple unveils its TV+ service, Disney's streaming service is just days away from its Australian launch, and both will have to compete with already fierce rivalry from the likes of Netflix, Foxtel, Stan, and Kayo.
With 13 major streaming services now available in Australia, experts say some viewers will use the new entrant's arrival as a "catalyst" to cut back, while others will carve more of their free time out to sit in front of the home's biggest screen, enjoying a wealth of new entertainment available by clicking and streaming.
The virtual doors to Apple TV+ swung open in Australia this morning, delivering access to nine original TV shows and movies from the cashed-up tech giant.
Drawcards include Morning Wars, a 10-episode take on morning TV show dramas starring Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carrell, and For All Mankind, which imagines the space race between America and Russia had never ended.
Apple is also promising another five original TV shows for the coming months, including a psychological thriller, Servant, from M. Night Shyamalan.
The impressive launch slate all but guarantees Australian viewers will add the new service in droves, Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi says, but it probably won't win Apple the top streaming spot.
Telsyte's Entertainment Subscription Study found more than 12.3 million Australians had subscribed to video-on-demand services by the end of June - 2.8 million more than last year.
But Netflix claimed the lion's share of the streaming market, with 4.9 million subscribers, followed by Stan and Foxtel Now.
In addition to these established players, Apple will also have to see off competition from the company that now owns Star Wars.
"The figures we get for interest in Disney is much higher than Apple," Fadaghi warns.
"As many as five million Australians could take up that service quite quickly because of the titles they have and the franchises they own. Other providers might find it more difficult."
Disney+ is expected to launch on November 19 with a host of new titles from Marvel, Star Wars, and franchises including Monsters Inc and Frozen.
Fadaghi says Apple is "in a similar position to Amazon," in that both companies are starting from scratch, forced to invest in original content to draw in viewers rather than a catalogue of old hits, and must keep creating compelling content to keep viewers hooked.
That could take four of five solid, original shows to keep Aussies watching, he says, and many viewers were willing to subscribe to multiple services if they got the mix right.
"Our research shows that Australians' appetite for consuming multiple streaming services is really high," he says.
"Many people say they don't have a set limit to how many services they will subscribe to - it just comes down to the content that's available."
More than half of all Australian households subscribe to at least one streaming service, Telsyte found, and 43 per cent now use more than one provider.
The price of streaming ranges from $8 to $35 a month, and viewers are justifying multiple services by comparing them to what they paid for older technology.
"A good way to look at it is that a few years ago a customer might have spend the equivalent amount of money on DVDs over a year," he says. "It doesn't take much for a consumer to see value at the price points being touted by operators right now."
But Fusion Strategy media analyst Steve Allen argues some viewers will use the arrival of Apple TV+ and Disney+ to reassess just what they're paying for and what they're willing to set aside time to watch.
"There's going to be a squeeze play - people are not going to continue to subscribe to every service even though these are modest amounts per month," he says.
"The catalyst will be the new entrants. People will think, 'I'm not using that as much as I thought I would' and realise when their subscriptions no longer add up."
Savvy viewers, he says, may even wait until a number of compelling TV shows hit a service and subscribe to it for a few months before swapping alliances.
But, for some, the choices are already proving too much.
Deloitte lead technology partner Kimberly Chang says the sheer breadth of entertainment content offered by services including Kayo, Hayu, Tubi, Mubi, and YouTube were creating confusion in the market.
Deloitte's Media Consumer Survey of more than 2000 people found almost half of all viewers found it difficult to know "what content is on what service," Chang says, and most wanted to be able to search for all shows in just one place rather than darting between apps.
"Consumers are continuing to have to manage an increasingly complex content environment," she says.
"This puts the organisation or platform that can offer a true aggregation option in a very strong position to win over consumers and drive high user satisfaction."
Efforts to create the illusive one-box-to-rule-them-all gadget include pay-TV provider Foxtel, which now offers Netflix, ABC and SBS alongside its own services on some iQ set-top boxes, Telstra that lets users access multiple services in its Telstra TV 2 box, and Apple's own TV device which allows cross-platform searches.
Allen says Aussie audiences were also increasing their time in front of the TV to cater for all the extra entertainment on offer.
"Our calculation is that the average adult now has about 56 hours of active and passive media consumption per week," he says. "It was 52 hours a decade ago.
"It's gone up by a couple of hours thanks to these streaming services."