Editorial: Samsung hasn't copied Apple TV+ yet, but it's only a matter of time
It's not true that Samsung copies absolutely everything Apple ever does. Apart from Apple TV+, though, we're struggling to find another exception — and there are reasons to think TV won't be safe for long, either.
You can take Apple's design chops, and you can take its decades of producing slick videos, but there's just one reason the company has really been able to make a television service like Apple TV+. "They're in a billion pockets, y'all."
With cable channels now seeing much the same decline that they wrought on broadcast networks, the ability to deliver television programming to a growing market is irresistible. You just need a loyal audience, with devices that can stream video, and something for them to watch.
So start your stopwatch. Apple's longtime rival Samsung is surely coming to a screen near you, and soon.
Two companies, both alike
It's easy to point to how both Apple and Samsung have cash in their pockets. They also, for much the same reason, have a very big audience with a lot of devices out there.
Then if Apple is the first to form an actual television drama production studio, still both companies have years up on years of video experience.
It's hard to forget those Samsung video ads mocking Apple for removing the headphone jack, for instance, although it's now also a little hard to find them. Samsung removed those ads when it copied the removal of the headphone jack.
Nonetheless, Samsung has people experienced in shooting and delivering video. It only has them doing shortform pieces, but that's what Apple used to be best at, too.
Television bases its decisions chiefly on ratings, as in how many people are watching a show. After decades of doing this, you can assume the figures are accurate but no Neilsen estimate algorithm can hold a candle to the precision by which Apple knows how many iPhones it has sold.
Apple may no longer quote iPhone sales figures, and Samsung always optimistically reports numbers of phones made rather than actually sold. But both companies know to the unit how many have been bought.
Television doesn't work like that. All television channels and networks have to look at what's called the reach and the share. These plus the demographics of who is watching, and the bottom-line number of how many people tuned in, is how advertising revenue is calculated.
The reach is how many people are watching any television at all. The share is what proportion is tuned to a particular show.
Both of these figures have gone down radically over the last decades as television viewing has declined and the number of channels available has ballooned.
Whereas the reach of a smartphone has exploded.
If it's not true that everybody has an iPhone or an Android smartphone, it is true that everybody advertisers want to reach does.
Then if the incredible rise of smartphones is one factor that has persuaded Apple to go into television, the subsequent decline has become another.
Apple is increasingly moving toward providing services rather than solely making devices, and television now seems a great fit.
Right now it's still the case that having your show watchable on an iPhone is a benefit for your show. It's ultimately going to be that doing the same thing is really a benefit to iPhone sales.
All of these factors are the same for Samsung. It has the same pull of a large audience, and it has the same push of a need to provide services.
It just hasn't had a model before. For once, Samsung has not had Apple both doing a service and proving it works.
For the moment, it still doesn't. Apple TV+ could flop, but that looks unlikely. Yet Apple TV+ seemed much more of a risk a few years go.
That's when Apple started working on it. That's how long it takes to create a television service that is going to offer over a billion dollars of programming to over a billion devices.
Samsung has yet to find a way to mock Apple TV+ in its adverts, but maybe that's because this time, it's already beginning to copy it.
There have been no leaks of deals with producers. No sign, yet, of Samsung buying up a library of existing shows.
There is sign of streaming video becoming a much fiercer battleground than before. When Apple TV+ was first being worked on, there were plenty cable services such as HBO and online-only offerings such as Hulu, but there were really only two contenders.
Samsung could be playing a long game and waiting to see which service falters and then just buy it. Yet whether it plans to buy an existing service or create one itself, Samsung is in the same position as Apple. It has the same opportunities and it has the same issues as its rival.
But, it also has something Apple does not. Samsung makes televisions.