Is it the content or the pandemic that's fueling Apple TV+ use? Probably neither

Apple TV+ on Mac
Apple TV+ on Mac (Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe/iMore)

Apple TV+ and Disney+ both have a reason to celebrate. Just six months in, both streaming video services are among the top five in the United States, according to one survey. For Apple TV+, in particular, this is huge news given its small library. Whether its early success continues will largely depend on two factors, only one which Apple can control.

In a survey of 10,000 users, Parks Associates found that Disney+ has a 25% market share vs. the nearly 10% for Apple TV+ during the first quarter of 2020. Netflix, with 56% of the market, is No 1, followed by Amazon Prime Video (43%) and Hulu (32%). CBS All Access, HBO Now, Showtime, ESPN+, and Starz round out the top 10.

As Parks noted, the coronavirus pandemic, which forced millions of users to shelter in place, temporarily pushed up viewership numbers across the board. With the pandemic now slightly ebbing in most areas, along with the longer days of summer, I would expect we'll see lower viewership in the coming months. No doubt, the drop will be accompanied by subscription cancelations, affecting some content providers more than others.

Apple TV+'s place in the top 5 is perhaps the most tenuous for two reasons. First, is the arrival of HBO Max, which is almost certainly going to eat into everyone's market share if only because most current HBO subscribers now have the service readily available across multiple devices. Featuring existing content across various WarnerMedia properties plus original titles, HBO Max is much closer to Disney+ in terms of its design and broad library.

A more significant threat to Apple TV+'s market share is the calendar. Apple TV+ is currently free for 12 months for anyone who buys most Apple products, including iPhone and Apple TV. The first of those free promotions begin to expire in September. No doubt, many will cancel those subscriptions before that time, so they don't get charged the regular rate of $4.95 per month.

Apple TV+ was never going to have a vast content library after only a year, and the coronavirus has compounded this by shutting down most productions. Because of this, Apple would be wise to keep Apple TV+ free for another year for new device owners and see what the future holds.

If time machines existed, Apple would be wise to go back and buy Time Warner when it had a chance. Since that's not possible, it's best Apple TV+ remains mostly free for another year. That way, the company can keep Apple TV+ subscription numbers rising while also enlarging its available library.

What do you think?

What do you think Apple should do to keep people watching Apple TV+ post-pandemic and post the arrival of HBO Max? Let us know in the comments below.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

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.

  • No doubt. Unless they want to be red-faced when the numbers are released about how many people dropped it the second the free year expired. Not that they'd probably share THOSE numbers.
  • So far HBO Max has only shown contempt for their potential users with the moves they've been making. No surprise, considering they're owned by AT&T. Their jerk moves have put me off dealing with them. I'll stick with my cable subscription to HBO or not at all.
  • Thanks for reading. What moves have they made?
  • I'm planning to drop it in September, if nothing unexpected happens. I've watched all shows that interest me, and would like to eg watch 2nd seasons of Morning Show or For All Mankind. But that is not enough for me to extend/start paying for my subscription. So yes, a 2nd free year might help, to release more rich & convincing content, and to retain more users like me, and to convert them into payers eventually.
  • Since it's not an annual subscription but a monthly subscription, when a new season concludes for a show I want to watch I'll spend the $5 for that month and then drop it at the end of the month. Not enough content to keep it during the lean months when there's nothing to watch that interests me (right now, at the end of May I haven't used the service in months), but I'll happily pay for a month here or there in order to watch the next seasons of the shows that I enjoyed the first seasons of. If they want to keep me as a year-round subscriber, then they will need Netflix quantities of content.
  • Honestly, if I weren't getting it for free, i would not use AppleTV+. They have some decent shows, but not enough for the price. There are too many options out there with much more content (and yes I get it's the first year, but still this is not a new market so they do not have the time to dilly dally).
  • If Apple were to offer it at $2.95/mo after the first (free) year, I might consider it. Didn't care for The Morning Show and See was painfully slow. For All Mankind was a home run.