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In a wide-ranging interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook divulged Apple Music subscriber numbers, and said that a strong push into television and movies is underway.
In an appearance on Bloomberg Television on "The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations,", Cook was forthcoming about paid versus trial Apple Music subscribers. He said that in total, the service has more than 50 million users between paid members and trials, in contrast to the 40 million paid subscribers the company declared in April.
Looking at Apple's growth numbers, the company appears to be posting about 4 million conversions a month to a paid subscription above and beyond any makeup for cancellations. This number has been consistent since at least January, suggesting that Apple will have about 60 million paid subscribers before the holiday season, three years after launch.
Primary competitor Spotify announced earlier in May that it has 75 million premium subscribers meeting its own targets, but profoundly disappointing Wall Street. Assuming Spotify maintains consistent growth of subscribers, it will have about 90 million paid subscribers by the start of the holiday season, and it had a eight-year head start on Apple.
While the push into content isn't a secret, the interview was the first time that Cook directly addressed the effort.
"We are very interested in the content business. We will be playing in a way that is consistent with our brand," Cook told Bloomberg. "We're not ready to give any details on it yet. But it's clearly an area of interest."
It was reported in 2017 that Apple was investing approximately $1 billion into original video programming, but the report suggests Apple will easily extend the budget past that figure. It is claimed in recent months that it has outspent Facebook and YouTube's own original content efforts, as well as traditional TV studios, as well as defeating main competitor Netflix in some bidding wars.
A lot of this spending has taken place recently, with Apple increasing its content acquisition considerably in the last five months. Deals to produce 12 projects have been made by Apple since October alone, including nine "straight-to-series" orders without producing a pilot.
Notable deals include a revival of Amblin Television's sci-fi anthology series "Amazing Stories," a drama starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, an animated musical series from the creator of "Bob's Burgers,", and a partnership for content from high-profile rapper Drake.
Apple has also signed a lease for a building in Culver City, CA., which is expected to be its content-related headquarters. The office building, expected to open in late 2019 according to Variety, will include 128,000 square feet of office space across four stories and is minutes away away from another 85,000-square-foot production facility it has been linked to since last year.
It is also believed Apple's video efforts, under the name Apple Worldwide Video and headed by former Sony Pictures Television executives Jamie Ehrlicht and Zach Van Amburg, employs approximately 40 staff, and is creating divisions for adult drama, children, Latin American, and European programming.
Despite the expenditure's size, it is still dwarfed by Netflix's plans to spend up to $8 billion on content in 2018 alone. As revealed in an interview with Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue at SXSW earlier this month, the strategy to go for fewer shows is intentional with Cue advising "we're not after quantity, we're after quality."
"When you think of content, first of all, and you can see that here at South by Southwest, great storytelling is important," mused Cue, adding "you get great storytelling from big name people, and you get it from new and up-and-comers." Cue claims this lesson came from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs when he ran animation studio Pixar, at a time when it created its earliest hit movies.
Unnamed producers and entertainment executives who have recently talked to Apple's executives believe that Apple's efforts are being targeted for rollout somewhere between March 2019 and the summer of 2019. While it is almost certain that other video projects will arrive before the alleged release window, the supposed timeframe relates to content specifically created as part of Apple's funding efforts from the last year.
The same group also suggest Apple is seemingly leaning towards projects that keep with "its bright, optimistic brand identity." This may be seen as a "safer" route for content production that is more likely to be welcomed by viewers, with Apple supposedly shying away from programming that could be considered "gratuitously dark or heavy on social issues."