The introduction of Apple TV Plus, which the company says will become “the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers featuring exclusive original shows, movies and documentaries” was led by a video featuring Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and stars attached to the shows that will help shape Apple’s service.
Spielberg said that he will be resurrecting the 93-year-old Amazing Stories brand for Apple TV Plus. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell then took the stage to discuss another Apple original called The Morning Show. The parade of celebrities (including Jason Momoa, Alfre Woodard, Kumail Nanjiani, J.J. Abrams, Sara Bareilles, and even Big Bird) continued on, with each going over the many shows headed to Apple TV Plus — eventually.
Apple is expected to spend $2 billion this year on original content that it hopes can stand toe to toe with shows from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others. But it’s got some catching up to do (Netflix is spending billions more in 2019), and the company didn’t show trailers or clips for many of the projects it went over, as a good number are still in the works. It did show a short video montage featuring several shows, however.
Apple TV Plus will be ad-free, available on demand, and viewable both online and offline. Apple plans to launch it in over 100 countries sometime this fall, though it did not disclose pricing today. But you’ll access Apple TV Plus through the redesigned Apple TV app on iOS, Mac, Roku, Fire TV, and televisions from various manufacturers.
Aside from making a big originals push, Apple is equally focused on making its Apple TV app, which is free to use, the centerpiece of a consumer’s various video subscriptions. Onstage, the company announced Apple TV Channels, which will let customers pay for HBO, Showtime, Starz, CBS All Access, and other services directly through the TV app and watch everything there, too. Apple will be handling the streams and promises top-tier picture and audio quality for all Apple TV Channels it offers. A redesigned TV app is coming in May, and Apple says it will make finding the latest must-watch shows easier and surface recommendations from over 150 third-party video apps that Apple will offer.
“We designed a new TV experience where you can pay for only the channels you want, all in one app, with the password you already have,” said Apple’s Peter Stern. “Watch everything on demand and ad-free. Download your shows to take with you anywhere. Enjoy the highest quality picture and sound available,” he said. The Apple TV app has been entirely redesigned to let you watch everything in one place, whereas the old one would switch you over to third-party apps when it actually came time to watch something. “No more bouncing around from app to app,” Stern said. There are some exceptions to that, however: Netflix isn’t backing the new TV app, and so it doesn’t offer this integration. But it sounds like even Amazon and Hulu will allow their content to be watched within the Apple TV app, which is a significant achievement for Apple.
In January, Tim Cook said Apple had reached 1.4 billion active iOS devices; those screens (and the TV app that comes preinstalled on them) will be critical to the service’s success. Today, Apple confirmed the TV app will be coming to the Mac soon, and the company has also announced an iTunes Movies and TV app for Samsung TVs, just one step to reach customers beyond its own devices. That same app will be coming to televisions from Sony, LG, Vizio, and others.
Serving as a hub for video subscriptions isn’t a new idea: Amazon started down this path with its add-on Prime Video Channels, which allow Prime members to stream programming from third parties like HBO, Showtime, Starz, CBS, and others by paying for each service separately through their Amazon billing account. Convenience is really the name of the game, and putting everything in one place is much simpler for people who are trying to track what they’re spending on these services. Apple’s execution is a bit different since it doesn’t require a major service like Prime as a prerequisite before consumers can buy subscriptions. So the barrier of entry is lower. Apple will be taking a cut of each subscription it sells, which will help further boost revenues for the company’s services division. That’s crucial as Apple looks for other reliable profit sources in a world of flat iPhone sales.
But back to Apple TV Plus to close this out: there’s still a lot we don’t yet know, with price leading the way followed by the selection that customers will be seeing at launch.