I want to be excited about Apple TV+. I really, truly do.
As someone who generally loves the sort of prestige programming Apple favors for its streaming video service, has fully embraced cord-cutting for movies and TV shows, and appreciates (but isn’t fully invested in) the Apple ecosystem, the launch of Apple TV+ feels like something I should be eagerly anticipating.
But alas, the more I learn about Apple TV+, the more the service seems aimed at an audience that doesn’t include me.
Set to launch November 1, Apple TV+ has an impressive list of original movies and TV series the company has been touting at every opportunity. An anthology series produced by Steven Spielberg, a sci-fi drama from the creator of Battlestar Galactica, and a series about a morning news show featuring the A-list trio of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell are just a few of the highlights of Apple’s programming plans — all for less than $5 a month.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital TrendsThe recently released trailer for See, a post-apocalyptic adventure series starring Jason Momoa, is like icing on the cake, really — particularly when you consider the gorgeous cinematography and visual effects likely to accompany a $15 million per-episode price tag.
And yet, Apple TV+ still seems to be falling short of its competition in the streaming marketplace in far too many ways.
Beyond the original programming Apple has announced, the content outlook for Apple TV+ feels surprisingly barren. Of the original series Apple has flaunted so far, only a few shows are expected to be available on the service at launch, and there’s been no mention of the sort of supplemental, licensed content that typically fills out a streaming service’s library (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video).
If Apple TV+ launches in November with ten original shows — an unlikely scenario, given that most of the projects announced so far are still in production — there’s been no word on what else will be available when subscribers binge their way through those series.
If Apple opts to release new episodes of each series weekly (instead of entire seasons all at once), the situation could become even more dire, as subscribers run out of things to watch on a weekly basis. (“Now that I’ve watched the new episodes of See and The Morning Show, what else is there?”)
Even at $5 a month, that seems like a recipe for disaster — or at the very least, boredom.
As referenced above, major players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu all boast robust libraries of licensed content to go along with their original projects, while lower-profile streaming options such as CBS All Access still manage to provide a decent enough mix of original and licensed fare (along with other programming perks like on-demand access to network shows) to justify the monthly expense.
Similarly, Disney has repeatedly suggested that its upcoming Disney+ service is putting quality over quantity by offering only in-house projects for the most part, including most of the Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm libraries to its subscribers — no small amount of content when you consider the collective output of the studios.
And then there’s Apple TV+, which is currently confirmed to offer four or five original series with A-list casts and creative teams, and … what else?
That could change, of course, but right now it feels increasingly like Apple wants us all to be too star-struck by the names the company is dropping to notice how few shows they’ll actually be providing subscribers.
During Apple’s September 10 presentation, the company also announced that anyone who buys a new macOS or iOS device will get a free year of Apple TV+.
It’s a nice offer, but when you consider that Apple devices typically cost upwards of $1,000, that $60 savings for a still-uncertain, relatively shallow stream of content becomes a little less enticing.
Given that Disney recently made its own Disney+ service available for less than $5 a month in a limited offer (and $7 per month regularly), while Netflix offers its Basic plan (and the massive library that comes with it) for $9 a month, and Amazon Prime Video attaches its service for free with Amazon Prime, the idea of spending all of that money on an Apple device in order to save $60 on Apple TV+ isn’t viable. Instead, Apple TV+ is just a perk for Apple buyers.
In the end, it’s just hard to get as excited about Apple TV+ as other streaming options out there — either existing or upcoming. From its price point to the amount of confirmed content to the way it’s being marketed right now, Apple TV+ seems like less of a standalone streaming service and more of an add-on element for people who are already fully invested in Apple and its ecosystem.
And that’s too bad, really.
Apple TV+ has an amazing amount of potential, and the amount Apple has invested in it so far, along with the creative talent it has attracted to its service, suggests that there’s going to be a lot to like about Apple’s foray into original movie and television content. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough to win me — and very likely the wider pool of potential subscribers — over just yet.