New York Times CEO Mark Thompson seems to think that newspaper publishers licensing their content to Apple could end up like entertainment companies that licensed programs to Netflix: full of regret. That’s the message from this interview Thompson gave to Reuters. He didn’t comment specifically on Apple but there’s no doubt what he’s talking about. The Times Co. is reportedly not participating in the Apple subscription service, expected to be unveiled on Monday (along with its video offering). In contrast, the Times newspaper reported earlier this week that the Wall Street Journal would license its articles for the Apple service.
Thompson’s reasoning for not participating in other people’s digital platforms makes sense: the Times doesn’t want its “journalism being scrambled in a kind of Magimix (blender) with everyone else’s journalism.” But his analogy between Netflix and Apple doesn’t follow. There’s no doubt major studios dug their own grave when, starting around 2009, they licensed their programs to Netflix’s then-nascent streaming service, giving Netflix the weapons to take over entertainment. But Netflix was the first to launch video streaming, so it had a unique opportunity to entrench itself. Apple, however, is jumping into a crowded subscription news field, where its service will compete with lots of other well-established offerings (including free offers like Google News). If Netflix had launched its streaming service long after the Hollywood studios had built their own successful services, Netflix likely would not have succeeded.