Published on December 14th, 2017 | by Brad Gibson0
In a competitive first, Apple runs paid promotion of Amazon Prime Video in its tvOS update
Apple TV users worldwide who updated to tvOS 11.2 last week might not have noticed it or even realized the significance, but upon re-launching their device were met with an on-screen promotion of the just-released Amazon Prime TV app. The mention – or what sources have confirmed was a paid promotional advertisement – is the first time Apple has advertised a third-party app or service through an Apple TV update or outside the App Store. It’s an interesting development in an increasingly competitive streaming entertainment industry that Apple will become more involved in over the next year.
Sources familiar with various aspects of the streaming media industry tell BESTAppleTV.com the reference was not a free promotion by Apple, but a paid advertisement from Amazon, despite not being labeled as such.
“Let me assure you, Apple doesn’t promote another service or product for free, especially from an obvious competitor,” commented a former 10-year Apple marketing executive, who asked not to be named for competitive reasons. “This was a paid-for promotional message.”
The promotion – seen in over 100 countries – appears after users manually or automatically update tvOS to version 11.2. After restarting, a ‘What’s New’ screen previews various features of the new operating system. The first reference is focused on Amazon’s Prime TV app, which is not automatically downloaded to the Apple TV device nor is linked through the promotion to the App Store.
Apple is promoting the separate Amazon Prime Video app in its tvOS 11.2 update worldwide, a first for the company in referencing a competitor and its streaming service outside its App Store on Apple TV.
The message to U.S. users states…
“Get the app and enjoy Amazon Originals, along with popular moves and TV shows. Pick up where you left off, or find something new with the TV app and Siri.”
In a carefully orchestrated promotion, Apple released its final version of tvOS 11.2 on December 4th, two days before the release of the Prime TV app. For 48 hours, the ‘What’s New’ screen did not reference the app at all, not until its official release on December 6th. Only then was the ‘What’s New’ screen reference updated for worldwide release.
Mutually beneficial for Apple & Amazon
The promotion is an interesting one as the operating system update has little to do with the release of the third-party app. Additionally, the highly-anticipated Prime TV app from Amazon could become a major competitor to Apple in the sale of music, TV shows and movies online in the foreseeable future.
“Even though it’s outside of what they have historically done, you can see why that given they are really not as competitive right now in terms of content that it makes sense for Apple to have done this,” Loup Ventures industry analyst and managing partner Gene Muster told BESTAppleTV.com.
The timing of the releases and the promotion speak to at least a slightly improved relationship between Amazon and Apple, both of whom need each other to publicize their competing products in an increasingly opposing market of streaming entertainment services.
“It’s sort of like a ‘Trojan Horse’,” commented Munster. “Apple needs Amazon and its app if they want to use the Apple TV as a major part of its own future content plans.
“Apple’s strategy is just keep consumers on the (Apple TV) hardware and don’t let them think about going outside their walled garden. It’s fine if they are using a little bit of Amazon Prime TV today, because they’re going to make a little but of money today and it’s not that big of a deal. Down the road, what’s more important is that captive audience. Apple has always been comfortable with other vendors making money on their platform too, but there are other factors beyond just video content that are important to Apple.”
Munster believes that despite the Apple TV strategy being less than clear right now, Apple’s future plans might be evolving.
“The reason why Apple did this Amazon promotion is because they want to keep people on Apple TV,” said Munster. “If they can make some money through promotion along the way that’s even better. But they want people to use Apple TV because they want to increasingly connect Apple TV to other devices as part of their ecosystem. Separately down the road they are going to want to sell content and they need consumers on Apple TV to do that.”
(A BIG thank you to reader and fellow journalist Sebastain Szwarc (@Behinder) for his help in obtaining screenshots and videos for this story.)