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‘A Billion Pockets’: Apple’s Installed Base Is the Real Star of Its Service Push

In the words of Oprah Winfrey: “They’re in a billion pockets, y’all.”

That was one of the key messages at Apple’s keynote event on Monday, with the iPhone giant unveiling a new lineup of services in a push to double down on its most profitable business segment. Apple (AAPL) shares were down 1.21% on Monday.

The billion referred,  approximately, to Apple’s installed base of 1.4 billion devices, which includes 900 million iPhones. Now, Apple aims to leverage that installed base in dramatically expanding its slate of paid services, and thus its potential revenue streams

The new services span news, games, payments and TV.

Apple News+ is a $9.99 per month news subscription that bundles together more than 300 magazine titles, the LA Times and Wall Street Journal, and a handful of premium news sites. Apple Card, the result of a collaboration between Apple, Goldman Sachs and Mastercard, is a physical credit card that will offer 2% daily cash back and no fees, among other features integrated with Apple Pay intended to help customers manage their money. Apple Arcade is a games subscription offering access to new and premium games playable on any Apple device. There was no pricing or release date announced for Apple Arcade.

But at the keynote event dubbed “It’s show time,” Apple’s TV services were the main attraction.

Introduced by CEO Tim Cook and a parade of Hollywood celebrities, Apple’s revamped TV services have two parts: One, called Apple TV channels, is an aggregate of third-party programming from networks like HBO, Starz, Showtime, Hulu, CBS All Access and many others. The other, called Apple TV+, is Apple’s long-rumored original content offering, and includes a slate of original programming either created or backed by Apple.

Pricing for Apple TV Channels and Apple TV+ weren’t announced, but Wedbush’s Dan Ives forecasted that Apple will undercut Netflix’s pricing by $1 to $2. But it makes sense that they’re keeping the playbook close to the vest, he added.

“Apple realizes they have to tiptoe into this; they can’t have any strategic missteps like they’ve had with other products,” Ives said.

By trotting out a number of megawatt celebrities at Monday’s event — like Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Jason Momoa, to name a few — Apple showed that, like Netflix and other streaming rivals, it has the clout to bring in major talent. But to echo Oprah, Apple’s greatest strength in TV services may not even be its star power — it’s that installed base.

Apple’s installed base of 1.4 billion devices, a metric that the company began disclosing this year in lieu of iPhone unit sales, may be Apple’s main superpower as it lures publishers, content creators, game developers and ultimately customers to buy in to their platform.

There are some promising signs regarding the power of Apple’s installed base: Apple Music, for instance, has quietly amassed more than 50 million paid subscribers at $9.99 per month, despite little in the way of specific marketing efforts. And that formula could apply to other areas like TV or gaming.

“People aren’t as willing to pay up from for games on Apple, so having a venue for these games is going to be good for everybody,” said Amir Ghodrati of the mobile analytics and insights firm App Annie.

Apple’s base of existing devices and users may give them a head start even in television content, an already saturated market that includes incumbents like Netflix (NFLX) Amazon (AMZN) and Hulu.

“The 1.4 billion [installed base] distribution is going to be the main way to flex their muscle; that’s how they’ve gotten to 50 million subscribers on Apple Music with minimal effort,” Ives added.