Apple to lift veil on online TV push

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SAN FRANCISCO/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Apple Inc is expected to finally lift the curtain soon on a secretive, years-long effort to build a television and movie offering designed to compete with big media companies and boost digital services revenue as iPhone sales taper.

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“It’s show time” is how the iPhone maker billed the affair slated for the Steve Jobs Theater at its Cupertino, California, headquarters. Analysts believe it will be the technology company’s first splashy launch event that will not feature new gadgets or hardware.

Hollywood celebrities are likely to trek to Apple’s Cupertino home to greet the debut of a revamped Apple TV digital storefront. Apple has commissioned programming from A-list names such as Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.

The Apple original shows are expected to be offered alongside the option to subscribe to content from Viacom Inc and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp’s Starz, among others, sources have told Reuters.

Apple will join a crowded field where rivals such as Amazon.com’s Prime Video and Netflix Inc have spent heavily to capture viewer attention and dollars with award-winning series and films.

The big tech war for viewers ignited a consolidation wave among traditional media companies preparing to join the fray. Walt Disney Co, which bought 21st Century Fox, and AT&T Inc, which purchased Time Warner Inc, plan to launch or test new streaming video services this year.

Apple’s jump into original entertainment signals a fundamental shift in its business. Sales of hardware money-makers the iPhone, iPad and Mac were either stagnant or flat in its most recent fiscal year. Without another category-defining new gadget announced to the public, Apple is expected to rely on selling subscriptions and services like video, music and hardware insurance.

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