Apple quietly buys Roku remote button for struggling Apple TV +

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Apple TV + is scrambling for new subscribers – and it’s quietly seeking help from an unlikely rival.

Apple’s struggling streaming service, which it launched in November 2019, bought a button on the Roku remote – a surprise tie-up to the famous streaming stick maker that Apple hopes will expand its customer base.

Roku revealed the button on its website Wednesday morning without officially announcing it, showing a photo of its new remote with easy-access buttons for Netflix, Disney +, Hulu – and Apple TV +.

The new remotes have also started appearing at retailers, including Best Buy, which early Wednesday offered a remote emblazoned with the Apple TV + logo along with Roku’s new Express 4k + streaming media player, which sells for $ 39.99.

A spokesperson for Roku declined to comment. Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

Apple’s Roku game is a “shocking” development, and a signal that the iPhone maker has finally realized it “can’t just be in Apple’s walled garden,” said Rich Greenfield, analyst at Apple. LightShed Partners.

“No one would have ever expected this,” Greenfield told The Post. “The idea that Apple, rather than creating a device that will replace Roku, now buys a button next to Netflix or next to Disney + just shows you that when they get into the content business, they have to be everywhere. . ”

An image of the new Roku remote with the AppleTV + button.
Roku’s new remotes include a shortcut button for the Apple TV + app as well as buttons for Netflix, Disney +, and Hulu.
Roku

Indeed, it is believed that this is the first time that Apple has put its mark on the equipment of a competitor. Sources familiar with the situation said the Cupertino, Calif.-Based tech giant was ostensibly keeping a low profile on the Roku partnership, which was first revealed in April in a report from The Verge that drew little attention.

Apple can remain silent, insiders say, because the move stinks of desperation.

Apple doesn’t detail the number of Apple TV + subscribers, but analytics firm Ampere Analysis has estimated that Apple’s streaming service may have surpassed 40 million subscribers by the end of 2020. As such By comparison, Netflix recently reported 208 million subscribers worldwide while Disney + now has over 100 million subscribers.

A person holding a Roku remote with the Apple tv app opens a TV screen in the background
Apple may be able to clear up the brand’s confusion over Apple TV + with its Roku partnership, experts say.
Alamy Stock Photo

Whatever the numbers, Apple’s decision comes as a slew of free trials for Apple TV + are set to expire. When the $ 49.99 per year service launched, anyone who bought an Apple gadget got one year of Apple TV + for free. During the pandemic, the offer was extended twice. But next month, the bulk of its initial subscribers should finally be billed.

When users press the Apple TV + button, they’re taken directly to the streaming app and prompted to create an account, which costs $ 4.99 per month. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Roku would offer a special Apple TV + promotion to its users, but the service continues to offer three-month free trials to new customers.

Apple TV + now has nearly 90 original TV shows, films and documentaries, such as “Ted Lasso” with Jason Sudeikis and “The Morning Show” with Jennifer Anniston. It’s sorely short of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, which each have over 1,000 original shows.

Apple TV logo on the phone screen stock image.
Apple TV + is slowly building its library of content, but lags behind competitors like Netflix, Disney +, and HBO Max.
Alamy Stock Photo

According to a January study by MoffettNathanson of nearly 19,500 customers, 62% of Apple TV + subscribers still benefit from the free promotional offer. Almost 30% said they do not plan to re-subscribe once the promotion expires, while 30% said they plan to renew at the monthly price of $ 4.99. The others said they didn’t know what they would do.

“As always, we wonder what Apple TV + is doing to stand out in an increasingly crowded field,” wrote Michael Nathanson, analyst at MoffettNathanson. “We see AppleTV + as always crackling up against its peers.”

Part of the problem, according to Greenfield, is that there is “confusion in the market” about what AppleTV + is. Perhaps this is because Apple sells its own streaming device called AppleTV, and consumers don’t fully realize that the Apple TV + service at $ 4.99 per month can be used without it, or any other Apple device. ‘elsewhere.

    The video panel displays the logo of Roku Inc, a Fox-backed video streaming company, in Times Square after the company's IPO on the Nasdaq Market in New York City.
Roku’s extended reach can increase the number of Applet TV + subscribers.
REUTERS

Greenfield said Apple’s decision to buy a Roku button looks like an attempt by the service to “make itself known” and make consumers understand that by sitting next to Netflix on the remote, it is also a content provider.

It would also benefit from Roku’s reach, which includes more than 53 million active accounts, according to its latest earnings report. Rumor has it that Roku charges hefty fees for real estate on its remotes. Bloomberg reported in 2019 that a streaming service that purchases a button pays Roku $ 1 per customer for the button.

Roku declined to comment. Apple did not return requests for comment.


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