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With Apple TV+, Cupertino plays the long game

Apple TV App
Apple TV App (Image credit: iMore)

There are a lot of video streaming services on the market with others expected to launch in 2020. Though it's not the largest or most publicized, Apple TV+ could eventually have the most lasting impact among the growing list of web-based content providers.

The reason? Apple TV+, which launched in November, is focused exclusively on developing and airing original content, while everyone else hopes to lure subscribers largely by offering older titles. In the long-run, this difference could prove significant, especially as users grow tired of paying multiple susbscriptions for home entertainment.

Not about reruns

Like many of my generation, I grew up on "Friends," the 30-minute comedy that ran for 10 seasons on NBC and launched the careers of Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, and the four other Central Perk inhabitants. When word leaked that a "Friends" reunion would launch on the upcoming HBO Max (opens in new tab) premium video service, there was undoubtedly a collective cheer around the world.

And then Apple CEO Tim Cook told shareholders there was no chance that "Friends" would ever have shown up on Apple TV+. As he explained, "We love 'Friends,' but it's not what Apple TV+ is about. Apple TV+ is about original programming. It doesn't feel right for Apple to just go out and take a rerun." In other words, Apple's all-in on Aniston (who also stars in Apple's "The Morning Show,") but not her past character, Rachel Green.

Reruns play a massive role in every other streaming service. At least for now, this has been enough to sign up the masses. Take Disney+ (opens in new tab), for example, which also launched late last year. Thanks to its already large library of Star Wars, Marvel Comics, and of course, Disney-branded content, the service has fast become one of the most popular in a short time.

Netflix, which currently spends more cash than any other company on the most number of original titles each year, also counts on older series to keep it moving full steam ahead. Until December, when it left the service, for example, "Friends" was Netflix's second-most viewed series behind the early 2000s workplace comedy, "The Office."

HBO Max, which launches in May, like others before it, will also rely heavily on older titles to gain early adopters and maintain monthly subscribers, as will Peacock, NBC's entry into the web-based premium video market.

"Friends" on HBO Max

"Friends" on HBO Max (Image credit: HBO Max)

And yet, here's Apple, once again thinking differently. From "Little America" to "See" to the recently launched "Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet," everything on Apple TV+ is new. Additionally, in a surprising move, the company is offering Apple TV+ free for a year to anyone who purchases an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, or Mac. And that subscription, which is usually priced at $4.99 per month, is shareable with up to six family members at no additional cost.

This one-two punch (a year-long freebie plus a regular low price) makes sense given the slow release of Apple TV+ content. However, by the time Apple TV+ celebrates its first anniversary, its library of original content for current and new subscribers alike will be secure. Better still, by that point, Apple TV+ will be available in more places than ever before.

It's all about the app

As I previously noted, Cupertino isn't just offering the Apple TV app (and hence access to Apple TV+) on Apple TV hardware and its mobile devices. Instead, it's taken the unusual step (for Apple) of offering the app on smart televisions from LG and Samsung, and also making it available on Fire TVs and Roku devices.

Apple TV app content is also available to stream from mobile devices to AirPlay 2–enabled TVs from Sony, VIZIO, and older LG and Samsung devices, and through web browsers.

And the content

Circling back around to the Apple TV+ content, it's clear Apple isn't afraid to spend what it feels is necessary to become a leader in original programming.

Back in August, The Financial Times reported Apple had initially planned on spending $1 billion to get Apple TV+ off the ground. That number had risen to over $6 billion at that point, however.

Although this dwarfs what Netflix ($17 billion) is spending on original content during 2020, it's likely higher than HBO Max and Disney+ (opens in new tab) combined.

And has often been reported, the Apple TV+ content features some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Besides Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Brie Larson, Meryl Streep, Spike Jonze, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, and many others, are on board for various projects.

A bright future

People are growing tired of paying monthly subscriptions for everything from web-based content to magazines to music. This exhaustion suggests most consumers won't subscribe to more than one all-compassing streaming video service among Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and the like.

However, given its reliance solely on original programming, Apple TV+ is poised to take a different path and continue to add subscribers while others could ultimately fail. Stay tuned!

What about Apple TV+

Do you enjoy Apple TV+? Is there something about the service you don't like? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Bryan M Wolfe
Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

5 Comments
  • Interesting take. However "This exhaustion suggests most consumers won't subscribe to more than one all-compassing streaming video service among Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and the like." I just don't see this as true at all. There's a vocal minority who might ONLY have Netflix or ONLY Hulu, etc, but the vast majority of households use, and will continue to use more than 1.
  • We really only have Netflix, we have a free trial of Amazon Prime but once that's done we'll just be sticking to Netflix. There's too many subscriptions now
  • Apple TV+ is cheap enough that this doesn’t matter. I subscribe to Prime and Netflix is covered by T-Mobile. The problem with TV+ is that there is almost nothing there for me to watch. I’ll keep the trial running, to see if this changes, but I would never pay for this if it were required for access. It’s a content desert. And half of what is there is fairly “SJW,” anyways. I’m not looking to be enlightened. I want to be entertained. Every time I look at their terrible app, it sends me back to YouTube. I still haven’t figured out how to get to the episode list while playing a video in this horrible app.
  • Despite the comment in the article that Apple is "focused exclusively on developing and airing original content" that has not been my experience at all. In fact, turning it on, one of the first shows it suggests I watch is "God Friended Me" which is not Apple original content and not included in the price of Apple TV+. In fact, almost everything I clicked on wanted to charge me to watch! Was not expecting that. Seems like currently their original content is outnumbered 10:1 and so far none of their original shows have made me look forward to a season two. Also can't believe how awful the app is to navigate. Feels like they rushed this product to the market.
  • Now, this is a very interesting take indeed, although technically you're talking about the Apple TV app not Apple TV+, although the overlap is obvious. Thanks for reading!