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Conde Nast CEO Roger Lynch: ‘The Jury Is Out’ on Apple News Plus

Conde Nast CEO Roger Lynch told the audience of Recode’s Code Media conference that he hadn’t made up his mind yet about Apple’s news subscription service. “I think the jury is out,” Lynch said, adding that he had inherited Conde Nast’s deal with Apple from his predecessor.

“I hope Apple News Plus is wildly successful,” Lynch said. “Whether it’s good for publishers like us or not is to be determined.”

Apple launched Apple News Plus earlier this year as a successor to Texture, a magazine subscription service that the company had acquired in early 2018. The service offers consumers access to hundreds of magazines and newspapers for around $10 a month. The service signed up 200,000 paying subscribers within 48 hours after its launch, but CNBC recently reported that the company has been struggling to expand its audience beyond those early numbers.

Some in the industry have feared that the service could hamper publisher efforts to build their own subscription businesses by giving consumers a chance effectively circumvent paywalls. “We haven’t seen that effect,” Lynch said.

He declined to comment on specifics of Conde Nast’s deal with Apple, but suggested that the company ultimately could sever ties with Apple if News Plus wasn’t working out. “Over time, we have options,” Lynch said.

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Lynch joined Conde Nast from Pandora in April after helping the streaming service with its sale to SiriusXM. Before leading Pandora, he had worked at Dish for a number of years, where he incubated and eventually led the Sling TV streaming service.

Sling TV was one of the first internet-based TV subscription services, and its launch in 2015 prompted many others to build their own over-the-top TV bundles. After initially attracting millions of cord cutters looking for cheaper bundles, that market has recently seen contraction in the face of rising bills. Sony even announced that it would shutter its PlayStation Vue service.

Lynch said Sling was still growing, thanks to Dish’s efforts to keep its bundle small, and for instance not integrate local broadcast channels. Dish’s premise for Sling TV was to build a service “that fits like a puzzle piece between digital antennas and Netflix,” Lynch said.

Getting networks to break the bundle was tough, he recalled. “It took us a long time to get the content rights.” It might be even harder for others to replicate that model, Lynch mused. “I think it would be very tough for someone to come in and do it now.”

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