Samsung and Apple are making nice -- at least when it comes to video.
Samsung on Sunday said its 2019 line of smart TVs will offer support for iTunes movies and TV shows beginning this spring. The launch could coincide with the expected unveiling of Apple's long-rumored video streaming service. For the service to be a success, it's key for Apple to make it available beyond Apple TV owners.
The iTunes support will allow Samsung TV owners in more than 100 countries to access their iTunes library or buy and rent iTunes video content through their televisions.
The support marks the first time that iTunes movies and TV shows will be available on a streaming video device that isn't made by Apple or isn't a PC.
The capability will also be made available to models of 2018 televisions through a firmware update, Samsung said.
Samsung TVs will also support AirPlay 2, which is Apple's upgraded Wi-Fi audio streaming technology, and allow customers to stream videos, music and other content directly to their TVs from an Apple device. Samsung said AirPlay 2 support will be available in 190 countries.
"We look forward to bringing the iTunes and AirPlay 2 experience to even more customers around the world through Samsung Smart TVs, so iPhone, iPad and Mac users have yet another way to enjoy all their favorite content on the biggest screen in their home," Eddy Cue, Apple's chief of internet services and software, said in a statement.
Samsung made the announcement ahead of the start of CES 2019 in Las Vegas. The company uses the massive electronics show as its venue for unveiling new TVs, appliances and other devices. It hosted an event Sunday to show off new TVs and held a press conference Monday to talk up its strategy for the coming year, specifically how Samsung will integrate its Bixby digital assistant into robots and cars.
"We have a bold vision to take a half a billion devices we sell every year and make them connected and intelligent," Samsung co-CEO HS Kim said during Monday's press conference.
iTunes users will be able to use Bixby on Samsung TVs to search for shows and movies offered on Apple's service.
Apple's video ambitions
As for Apple, the move to expand iTunes beyond its own Apple TV demonstrates its heightened emphasis on software and services. The company has long used its services as a way to sell more of its devices. But as phone sales slow, it's pushing services like Apple Music and iTunes even more. It's making its presence felt at CES through companies like Samsung and LG and is expected to introduce several revamped and new services in 2019.
Over the past year, Apple has deployed a $1 billion budget to develop content from high-profile film and television stars, including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, M. Night Shyamalan and Steven Spielberg. The company has hired two top executives from Sony Pictures Television to lead the effort.
Apple has also hinted that there's something big in store. It may be a streaming video service that would rival Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, or some other model, like a big package of services that includes Apple Music.
For that service and others to really take off, Apple will have to make them work with products from other companies. Even for many diehard Apple fans, it's still a mix-and-match world -- with many buying TVs from Samsung or LG, computers from Lenovo or Dell, and smart speakers from Amazon or Google.
Samsung is the world's largest TV vendor, so working with the company -- despite past patent litigation related to phones -- would be appropriate for Apple, especially as it gears up to introduce its own video streaming service.
"It makes total sense," Creative Strategies Analyst Carolina Milanesi said. "Samsung has the biggest share in TV across the people Apple would want to subscribe to their upcoming service."
And for Samsung, she added, "there is no real downside in allowing this."
First published Jan. 6 at 10:23 a.m. PT.
Update at 11:20 p.m. PT: Added background and analyst comment. Update, Jan. 7 at 10:20 a.m. PT: Adds information on new partnerships. Update, Jan. 8 at 9:30 a.m. PT: Adds information about Bixby.
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