Apple has announced that it’s upcoming TV service will cost £4.99 in the UK (and $4.99 in the US). That’s instantly brought a lot of comparisons with other services’ prices since it undercuts all of its major competitors. They will also give you a year free when you buy a new Apple device. However, I think the cheapest device you could buy to save you that £60 annual cost would be a £179 Apple TV box.
My Netflix subscription is just about to go up to £8.99 a month which is for two devices simultaneously and HD. There’s a lower tier at £5.99 for one device and SD, and a premium tier at £11.99 for four devices and 4K.
Amazon Prime costs £79 a year, or £7.99 a month.
Disney+ is going to cost $5.99 in the US, and I think it’s safe to assume that when it launches in the UK it’ll be £5.99 too.
But you can’t just compare all these prices and think you’re getting remotely comparable services. When Apple TV+ launches on November 1, there will be a grand total of nine TV shows available to watch. Three of those will be kids shows, and one will be an Oprah Winfrey interview show. From my perspective that £4.99 is initially getting me just six shows that have potential to be of interest.
In reality, only three of those six look to be something I’d at least try. The Morning Show is set behind the scenes at a US morning news show. It stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carrell, and is said to have cost in the order of $15m an episode. That’s more expensive than Game of Thrones. Given that it’s probably relatively light on CGI and armies of hundreds of extras, I suspect much of that cost is actually the wages of its three big stars! Nonetheless, the trailer intrigued me, and I’ll try to see it at some point.
Apple is releasing shows on a weekly basis rather than a Netflix-style all-at-once pattern. So I’ll probably wait until the whole series is there before binging during either a single month’s trial subscription or a single week’s free trial (Incidentally, a week feels a bit tight for a trial. Apple regularly offers me three month trials of Apple Music. But I suppose I genuinely could watch everything they have to offer if they gave me a full month).
See is said to be similarly expensive, although this time it might be more about the VFX costs as much as anything. This could be good or it could be terrible. Finally, there’s For All Mankind which has Battlestar Galactica’s creator at the helm. I’d automatically check that out on that basis alone.
Apple is said to be releasing new shows each month thereafter, but there’s no catalogue of older shows, so you’ll quickly get to the end of the list on screen when you’re searching. And I would also note that basically all of the initial batch of shows are US-centric. OK – perhaps not the documentary about elephants.
Suddenly the relative bargain of £4.99 compares quite badly with Netflix’s £8.99 (which I’d guess is their commonest package). Netflix has multiple new series and movies a week; and thousands of hours of its own and third-party licenced programming. Certainly they’ll be losing a significant chunk of that over time when popular shows like Friends drop off to go to rival services. But there is an awful lot in there to offer “value” to a consumer.
Similarly Amazon has a big catalogue of programming for it’s £7.99 (or £6.58 if you pay annually) a month. They manage to hide it a bit due to their terrible interfaces, but there’s a reasonably deep catalogue of their own stuff and licenced programming.
Disney+ too will arrive with a rich catalogue of Disney properties from film and television. True, not all of it will be there at launch, as existing deals wind down, but they’ll be able to provide an interface that scrolls on down quite a long way before you bottom it all out.
Apple should be able display its entire offering on a single screen. No need to scroll!
Media strategist Matthew Ball calls Apple TV+ “free” which is the case if you’re a big Apple consumer. In the US, where Apple’s market share of new phones is 41% (and can be as high as 47% in a quarter when new devices are launched), that’s arguably true.
But if you’re not in the market for a new iPhone, iPad or Mac, then I’m not so sure it is free. As I mention above, I’d have to spend a minimum of £179 to get the “free” year offer. And that’s for a box that I may or may not need – depending on whether Apple deigns to provide an app for, say, my Nvidia Shield TV.
(Yes – I do own an iPad. But I only bought it less than two years ago, so feel absolutely no need to upgrade it. It remains perfect for my needs.)
I suppose that I’m more surprised that Apple didn’t offer Apple TV+ as a bundle with Apple Music, Apple News and maybe a hardware subscription of some sort. The hardware part is complicated, because it moves the customer relationship away from the phone operator and to Apple. If they went hard down that course, they may find networks stop offering iPhones and not using their promotional dollars to push the new devices. Remember, much of the advertising you see for iPhone 11 devices in the coming days and weeks will actually be funded by the network operators and not Apple.
But Apple could have put all their services into one “value” package. Then an initially frugal video offering wouldn’t have felt so empty.