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Apple TV+ vs. Disney+: How much can Apple really charge?

Disney just held their annual D23 event, jam-packed with new programming and information about their upcoming Disney+ streaming service and Apple has released more trailers for the shows set to debut on their upcoming Apple TV+ streaming service.

And… one of these things is not like the other. So, what does it all mean for Disney, for Apple, and for us? Let's figure it out.

Disney+

Where to start with Disney+ (opens in new tab)? Specific to my interests, in addition to the already announced Falcon and The Winter Solider — and, please, Marvel, the man's name is Captain America now, get it right — WandaVision, Loki, and Hawkeye shows, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige added three more to the list: Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and Moon Knight.

All with the same star-power you see in the MCU movies, and with stories that intertwine with those movies — probably the most successful and certainly the most audacious in history.

For Star Wars, in addition to the Mandalorian and the Cassian Andor show, which we knew about, and the return of Clone Wars, which alongside Rebels, is so good it kinda just clowns all the movies since Empire, we'll be getting a new Ewan McGregor Obi Wan show.

And, since, with the Fox purchase, Disney now effectively owns 80% of our childhoods, there was even more for fans of the other brands, from High School Musical to Lizzy McGuire, to Muppets.

We won't get all of it all at once, of course. In fact, we'll get barely any of it at launch beyond the Mandalorian. And it won't be dumped for binging. It'll be weekly releases like Game of Thrones was on HBO. But it'll start flowing hot and heavy going into 2021 at launch.

It will have catalog content though, including the Simpsons from the Fox purchase.

Disney+ is set to debut in the U.S., Canada, and The Netherlands on November 12, 2019, and in Australia and New Zealand a week later, on November 19, 2019, and to continue rolling out to the rest of the EU in early 2020, and Eastern Europe and South America in 2021.

It'll be available on pretty much every streaming screen and box, including Apple's and the TV app — but strangely not Amazon. At least not so far.

And it'll cost $7 a month or $70 a year in the U.S., though D23 fan club members in the U.S. can get an even bigger discount for a limited time if they sign up for 3-years. There'll also be a Disney+, ESPN, and Hulu-with-ads bundle for $13 a month.

Apple TV+

Apple, by comparison, has said relatively little about Apple TV+ (opens in new tab).

I was at the big event they held in March, when the lights went out and came back on, and every time another huge star was on the stage, from Spielberg to Aniston to Corel to Mamoa, to Oprah.

There are no huge franchise plays, like Disney is pulling with Marvel and Star Wars. No, I'm a Mac: The Series, or the Adventures of Liam, Robot Deconstructor.

But there's a galactic ton of the aforementioned star power, and programming like The Morning Show, For All Mankind, Amazing Stories, See, Dickinson, Peanuts in Space, and more.

Many of which just got their trailers pushed out.

Since Apple doesn't own a studio or production house, at least not yet, and hasn't licensed any older shows that we know of, TV+ won't have any catalog content available at launch.

No official launch date has been given yet, other than this fall, but it will hit all 100+ countries that already have Apple's recently updated TV app.

And, it'll be available on Apple devices, Samsung, LG, Sony, and Visio smart TVs, and streaming boxes including Roku and Amazon.

No word yet on pricing either, which is where this all gets very interesting.

Apple's currents subscription services, News+ and Music both cost $10 a month for standard, single subscriptions.

Rumor has it, Apple's upcoming Arcade video game service will be $5, but there's been no official word on that either.

The fractured fiefdoms

Netflix pricing has gone up and become kind of convoluted over the last few years. It starts at $9 a month for 1 screen in standard resolution, or 480p, then goes to $13 a month for 2 screens in HD 1080p, or $16 for 4 screens in 4K.

Unlike Disney and Apple, which have massive revenue generators outside of content streaming, Netflix has to make all its money off of this one, single business. They're Palm or BlackBerry compared to Samsung or Microsoft in the phone space. Their strengths include their investment in original programming, like Stranger Things, and their back catalog, primarily of licensed content.

But, that part is changing. Office is leaving. So is Friends. The Marvel stuff like Daredevil and Jessica Hones has also already been canceled. That's because every other studio is launching a streaming service or several of their own, and bringing everything home.

This, as a consumer, is the fundamental problem with video streaming today. Apple Music, Spotify, all of that is great. $10 or so for effectively all the music. But imagine if it was like video today. $10 for Sony Music. $10 for Warner Music. Oh, U2 and the Beatles are big, they charge $10 just for themselves. $20 for Taylor Swift and Metallica.

Video doesn't want to end up like music but they're quickly creating a fractured set of fiefdoms that we, their customers, may not want to end up in either.

People have already talked about subscribing to Netflix for one month, binging everything from that year, then unsubscribing and doing the same with Disney+, HBO Max, TV+, all the streams. At least until the services try to restrict that too.

It's unclear exactly how much compelling content Disney+ will have for me at launch. I hope the Mandalorian will start to redeem Star Wars again, but all the Marvel stuff will take a couple years to roll out. Maybe the catalog content will defray that a bit, but the problem catalog content solves is primarily boredom. I just finished watching the hot new show, now keep me entertained.

Netflix has tons of that, even with the losses, and I often don't find anything to solve my boredom fix. At least not compared to all the stuff I can find on YouTube. And, yeah, I pay for Premium.

But, Apple isn't even going to have a catalog to fall back on, again as far as we know. Just a few hot new shows now with more on their way. And, if they get a Game of Thrones or Stranger Things, hell, if they get a couple or even a few, that'll be great. But how much will it really be worth in terms of monthly dollars?

Amazon, I think smartly, bundles its original programming and licensed content with its annual Prime subscription. It's just one of the many benefits of the program.

I'm not suggesting Apple give TV+ away for free. That's almost anathema to the company. And I'm sure there are some fans who'll pay $10 just to see Aniston or Oprah. But maybe not in service-sustaining numbers.

That's why I continue to think a low price like $5 or even $6 makes sense. But offering it as part of an Apple+ bundle makes even more sense. Hell, they can charge $10 by itself if they absolutely feel they have to, but make it just a couple or five bucks extra to every existing Apple Music customer. Apple News customer. iCloud customer. And then offer a grand unified bundle for like $20 that just has it all.

A billion devices in our pockets isn't cool. A billion people suddenly added to all the services, that's cool.

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Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

6 Comments
  • Wow! a metered look at what we think and know about TV+. How unexpected! As you indicated all we really know is that there will be about half a dozen shows at launch and all of them will be new content but nobody really knows if it will be great or compelling content, so nobody knows what it is worth.
    It is funny that most people treat this as if it were in a vacuum and not just about new content. I will bet that everyone thinking about TV+ already has access to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. Apple offering that would simply be redundant and a price has to be assessed for that. From what I can tell it cost about $3/month to get what Netflix or Amazon offer. So if Netflix Original content takes up the rest of that we are talking about $10 being what their content is worth. But they have more already built up and a larger pipeline (not necessarily a better one). So $7.99 is probably a fair guess. Now, that said. If I were Apple I'd offer early subscribers a $4.99 grandfathered subscription for as long as they kept the service active to drive early adoption and keep people from jumping in and out. Or some similar plan.
    Just my thoughts.
  • As the article states, I think the bundle is where the excitement and success might be. A standalone subscription for almost nay price is not compelling until the content library grows to at least twenty or more shows. Bundling with News+, and especially Apple Music for a decent price ($10 - 15 /month) is needed for at least short term success. Longer term, maybe the content alone can carry TV+ to success.
  • I totally disagree and HBO's game of thrones was a great example of that. People subscribed for a single show and then ether canceled when it was over or found other content worth watching. If you think of it CBS all Access is another example. Many people subscribed for Discovery and then found out there was enough other stuff to stay subscribed. Now if the shows on TV+ are just ok this will never fly. But networks have been keeping eyes on them with less than a dozen new shows each year for a long time. Sure they fill the day with re-runs but everyone already has those re-runs. Apple is likely to release with over a dozen series that will be out before the end of the year, and they should be able to road map a dozen more for next year along with the second seasons of the successful shows from this year. A bundle might be nice but you can step in and out of bundle's. A grandfathered price says pay now so you can have this cheaper going forward. More people in early is more word of mouth advertising, and more must see TV (if it is good). There is also the possibility for extended free trial periods with Apple hardware that can access it. Buy and AppleTV, iPad, or iPhone and get 3 months free.
  • Stay subscribed to Discovery? Maybe Bigfoot and UFO believers and people who can't get enough of unscientific nonsense like shark week. But really? I think Renee is right about the plethora of subscription services. Eventually they are going to have to bundle themselves together in better and better deals, or maybe authors of books are going to start becoming the big stars? One can dream... Just like file sharing remade the music industry and we get everything for $10, so it will happen to video as well. Build better DRM and the crackers make better cracking software.
  • I agree. More than likely it will be priced at $9.99, but that’s not Apple’s game plan. Like Rene, I believe they are more interested in bundling their services. Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+, and Apple Arcade for $19.99 a month is definitely worth it. All those services for one price would pique interest across all of them and give subscribers a reason to stick around rather than jump ship and bounce around to other services.
  • It'll be interesting to see what Apple does with services. They are entering a much more competitive realm where they don't own everything. Of course they can count on their Apple sheep customers however, that may not be enough to offset the shrinking device sales that will continue.