If you see a + sign after a recognizable brand name these days, there is a very big possibility that this is the brand’s version of a streaming service. After the likes of Disney and HBO, Apple is all set to enter the streaming wars with its own, exclusive service by the name of Apple+.

Will Apple’s content also be geo-restricted like Netflix, Hulu or other similar services? Apple didn’t talk about it even once during its launch, but this a point that seriously needs to be cleared up as users will need more information on such points of contention when they have much more to choose from in the streaming domain. All that was talked about at the launch event was the low subscription cost of $5/month, 1 year of free subscription to this service for all those who buy new Apple products and that they have Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Aniston doing original shows for them and that they are launching their service in November. 
Apple did say that their service will be available in 100 countries across the world except for China, but that doesn’t explain anything. 

Netflix is also available in a wide number of countries but it doesn’t offer the same content everywhere and that has created major frustration among its users all across the world in recent years.  Apple’s foray into the world of online streaming isn’t peculiar because it’s one of the biggest tech giants with a tremendous track record of incredibly successful electronic products like the iPhone, iPod, and Macs. From here on, streaming seems like the next sensible thing to do with the dizzying subscription figures the industry is generating every quarter.

Apple’s deep, deep pockets and the rise of streaming subscribers is a match that fully ticks all the right boxes. The firm is already present in 1.4 billion pockets, as that’s the number of the total electronic devices they’ve sold till now. And mind you, Apple has announced that it will offer a year’s worth of free subscription to its streaming service on all of its new products, giving it a head start, unlike any other entrant into the world of streaming.

Now throw in the $6 billion initial budget earmarked for original content by the giant and you could anticipate that Apple+ is going to be the next big thing to create noticeable ripples in the world of streaming after Netflix. However, all of these Apple’s advantages won’t erase the possibility of a major downside to the service that could harm Apple more than it did others.

If you are a regular Netflix or Hulu user, you will certainly be familiar with the dreaded “geo-restrictions” on content that users face on such streaming services. All of Netflix’s content is not available in all the countries where its service is, making users in different regions receive different kinds of value out of similarly priced subscription plans. No streaming service has been able to end this issue altogether and offer a service with no digital fences. Apple+ might not be that different if it doesn’t play it right.

Apple Is Obligated To Its iPhone Users, Netflix Is Not:  
Apple+ might have original content initially with its tremendous budget but as the service grows in the years to come it won’t be possible for it to keep generating content on its own to meet demand. There will come a day that Apple has to license or buy out content from other sources.

Apple is currently producing six major shows and all of them will be available to stream in the 100 countries that the service is launching in November, but despite some shows on it being more expensive than even GOT in per episode costs, 6 shows are definitely not enough to sustain user interest in a full-fledged streaming subscription.

So if the service resorts to acquiring content from external sources, on the same model as Netflix, the licensing agreements will most likely ensure that the content gets bound within a certain geo-graphical location in terms of availability due to the complex web of copyright laws that exist in each country across the world. This creates what we call “geo-restrictions” that are necessary for streaming services to stay true to their licensing agreements, but will Apple be okay with this practice like others?

It certainly shouldn’t be and that’s because Apple is different from its streaming platform peers, as it has an existing device family that others don’t and Apple is obligated to offer all of them with the same value for their subscription to Apple+, irrespective of wherever they might be located. The geo-restriction issues with Apple+, whenever they might arise, will affect users located outside the US mostly, as most content that the platform will cull for its streaming library will be produced and licensed for the country alone.

What Can Apple Do? 
This problem is currently in the future, so Apple has ample time to design and devise a strategy that could enable it to ensure that it never faces the problem in the first place. The most important thing that Apple needs to do is to ensure that if it ever licenses any form of content for its platform, the content title has to be bound by non-region based copyright agreement, giving Apple more control over who views its content and from where.

Netflix, the streaming industry’s titan, has failed in this even now, and in some places, users don’t even get access to 40% of the content that’s present in its US library. Users resorted to VPNs in order to bypass the geo-blocks but soon Netflix implemented the VPN ban making very few VPNs able to allow users access to the US version of the site. Netflix churns out top originals each year but it has to fill its content library from other sources to keep users interested, so the VPN ban is going nowhere.

This makes users face a major value dilemma i.e. either deal with the low value content libraries that they originally get or raise the overall budget spend on subscription by getting a VPN to get past the restrictions. This is a path that Apple+ should not tread, otherwise it will have to keep putting up VPN bans like the rest or keeping its service to a very limited, exclusive content library. The latter doesn’t seem like a good option as users these days want more content choices not an exclusive library with few, quality shows. So it’s either the VPN ban or neutral licensing agreements for Apple, with no grey in between.

The rise of powerful streaming sites like these as an alternate and more controllable form of entertainment has made users invest a lot of resources into becoming a streaming subscriber apart from subscription payments.  To get HD quality for your streaming content, you need a fast internet connection that now comes for no less than $40/year even if you opt for budget ISP packages like the ones offered in Spectrum Internet Plans or from nationwide ISPs like AT&T. 

If a user is investing so much in to making their streaming experience worthwhile, geo-restrictions is a phenomenon that can seriously undermine the whole value of all these invested resources and restrict the value a user is getting from the subscribed streaming service. 

There is also a major window of opportunity for Apple here as if it can pull off an all-equal-across-the-world type of service, it could position itself incredibly well in the streaming wars and gain a good chance of coming close to Netflix’s success numbers even if not outright beating them.

Wrapping Things Up:
Nothing big has happened in the streaming domain since Netflix stunned the world with its numbers and utter dominance of the digital entertainment world. Many streaming platforms have been launched but none have been touted to ever compete with Netflix. Apple is the only firm that people see as powerful enough to give the people at Netflix a run for their money. It has deep pockets, an already gigantic device family to market itself in and the “Think Different” mind set.  

Apple+ cannot be anything less than the best because, not just Apple’s reputation depends on it, the brand needs a major hit as interest in iPhones and iPads is tapering off. It needs to be on the same plane as the “one last thing” that Steve Jobs used to make the world gasp at the end of every product announcement event. For this to happen Apple+ shouldn’t be hampered with any of the flaws that pull down its peers and geo-restrictions is on top of that list.

Let’s see where this goes, I am putting my money on unhindered access to Apple+ from anywhere in the world.