This Friday Apple TV+ launches globally. In the UK, the PR launch is already well underway. Stars from some of the first tranche of Apple shows have been made available to various media outlets – Jason Malmoa was on Graham Norton for example. And there has been an absolute blitz of outdoor advertising for the biggest of its launch offerings.
The prevailing wisdom seems to be that regardless of the critical reaction to the shows (which has been mixed to date), the fact that Apple sells so many devices, and that it’s bundling a year’s subscription with all new device purchases, all means that it’ll get to a big number pretty quickly.
Analysts will point to the success of Apple Music, which quickly rose to be number two to Spotify from a standing start.
But I wonder if all of that entirely stands up?
Apple Music worked because in a regular iOS update (and Apple is fantastic at getting people to update their devices in a timely manner), the new app is positioned front and centre. Add to that, a free trial subscription to anybody – probably lasting 3 to 6 months – and you hook lots of people in. Many would tell you that Spotify is actually the better product – but Apple uses its device market dominance to gain a foothold in a new market, positioning it as a strong #2.
To an extent, that’s happening here. The Apple TV app has been updated for pretty much everyone with an Apple device, but it’s only new subscribers who are getting the free 12 month subscription. If you already have a device and the new iPhone 11 hasn’t tempted you, then you only get a paltry 7 day trial (Netflix offers a month).
Ah, but Apple sells 200m iPhones a year, so they get to a big number quickly. That’s true, but are all those 200m devices going to different households? Recall that TV subscriptions tend to be sold by household rather than by individual. Two phones in one household almost certainly means one TV subscription.
But if several people in a household all have an iPhone – and US networks sell lots of family plans, while US teenagers see iPhones as status symbols with high penetrations – then many of those device sales are within the same home.
200m devices sold annually does not equal 200m subscriptions.
None of this will stop Apple TV+ being a “hit” but it’s all worth considering. And I realised that Apple is really just building out its services offer. Perhaps sometime in the future, their devices won’t be quite so premium – that’s the only way they’ll be able to crack some markets like India or much of Africa. Arguably, the basic iPad already fills this role in tablets.
But as Friday approaches, I look at how I might be able to see Apple TV+ on a big screen.
I do have an iPad, through which I could pay my £4.99. But that won’t help me get the pictures onto my TV. My smart TV is a few years old (and in truth will need replacing in the next few months). It certainly doesn’t have an Apple TV+ app, and by all accounts, won’t be getting one either. Only the most recently released TVs come with it.
My streaming box on choice is the Nvidia Shield TV. A new version of this device launched this week. Either way, it’s an Android TV box, and Apple has made no mention of porting the app to Android TV. This box delivers iPlayer, Netflix, ITV Hub, All4, Amazon Prime, Eurosport and all the rest. Just not Apple TV+.
Apple TV+ is coming to Amazon Fire devices – but not mine. My Amazon Fire box is one of the first generation devices, and so is the Fire TV Stick I have, but no longer use, due to inferior picture quality and performance compared with the Nvidia Shield TV.
Apple TV+ is coming to Roku boxes, but I don’t own one and they don’t have a strong position in the UK market (Now TV boxes are essentially rebadged Roku boxes, but I’m not aware that they’re getting Apple TV+ yet).
I’m really not about to spend any significant amounts on a new streaming solution for a single channel. Perhaps I’d get a new Fire TV stick in a Prime Day sale if the cost fell low enough. Apple’s own TV devices are over-priced for what they are – with Nvidia’s products having significantly more functionality for a similar cost.
My current iPad is fine. I’m an Android phone user who’s incredibly unlikely to be upgrading to Apple, so no new iPhone for me. And I’m not buying a new Mac – I’m more comfortable with Windows (I also like keyboards that work).
So as things stand, I’m going to have to pay for Apple TV to watch it and buy a new piece of hardware to get it on my TV. And I suspect that I’m not the only one.
For All Mankind and The Morning Show do both appeal to me, but right now I think I’ll let them run their course, sign up for a free week at a quiet time, and try to binge them on a trial week.