With Apple TV Plus, Apple has poured billions of dollars into a service that’s set to take on the likes of Netflix and Amazon. As its release date nears, what can we expect from new video streaming service, how much will it cost and what platforms will it be on? Here’s what we know so far about Apple TV Plus.
Apple has previous streaming experience in Apple Music, but the video streaming market is a different kettle of fish. Apple Music hasn’t quite turned out to be the Spotify beater some thought it would be at first, and the video streaming market is growing ever crowded. With established veterans in Netflix, Amazon, Rakuten TV and NOW TV in the UK, as well as Disney Plus on the horizon, it’s not going to be easy.
If you’re after details on Apple TV Plus, here’s all the info we’ve gathered on the upcoming video stream service.
Apple TV Plus − At a glance
We know it’s arriving in the UK in the autumn and that Apple has enlisted an enviable roster of Hollywood talent both in front of and behind the cameras, including Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, J.J. Abrams and more.
Access to content will be from within the refreshed Apple TV app and along with original content from Apple, you’ll be able to buy/rent and view content from other subscription services (as long as you have an existing accounts with those services).
The Apple TV app is currently available on Samsung TVs, with more platforms set to arrive in the future.
Apple TV Plus − Content
Apple’s history with video content has been middling. Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke: The Series disappointed.
That hasn’t stopped Apple from having a think and taking another plunge, lining up a lengthy list of stars for its original shows. The production values in the highlight reel looked impressive enough and they should be considering how much money Apple has invested.
With around 30 projects thought to be in the works, it’s not enough to trouble Netflix, but the focus is on broader stories aimed at a younger/family audience.
- Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories
Steven Spielberg’s anthology series is heading back to the small screen. Not much has been revealed except what appeared to be an image of a WW2 pilot. Otherwise we do know that Edward Burns, Austin Stowell, and Kerry Bishé are all starring in an episode of the show.
- Little America
Created by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, Little America is another series that will tell stories of immigrants in America. As Nanjiani explained, the show will “go beyond the headlines to look at the funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring and unexpected lives of immigrants in America, at a time when their stories are more relevant than ever.”
See pitches Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard as survivors in a future where most of the human race has lost the ability of sight. Conflict ensues when it emerges a set of twins with sight have been born.
- Little Voice
You can’t keep J.J. Abrams away from TV. He’s back with a new series based an idea by musician Sara Bareilles. Little Voice is a romantic comedy that explores the journey of a character finding their “authentic voice” in their early 20s. Described as a “fresh, intensely romantic tale”, Bareilles is expected to write several original songs for the show.
- For All Mankind
For All Mankind is from the mind of Ronald D. Moore, the main creative force behind the 2004 Battlestar Galactica reboot. The premise is essentially a ‘What If?’, with the Russians beating the US to the Moon, escalating the race to discover space beyond the moon. The trailer shown at WWDC 19 looked great, boasting impressive production values. Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad, Altered Carbon) stars in one of the main roles.
- The Morning Show
At the March event, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon took to the stage with Steve Carell to talk about The Morning Show. This show has already been commissioned for two seasons and has been described as an exploration of “the unique challenges faced by the women and men who carry out this daily televised ritual.” The vibe from the footage seemed similar to Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. Let’s hope it’s more consistent.
- Oprah’s Book Club
Oprah Winfrey announced the revival of her Book Club series for the service. For those not familiar, Book Club highlights books chosen by Winfrey and features a discussion about them. This version will include livestreams with the authors of book. Oprah also announced she’ll be teaming up with Prince Harry to produce a docu-series about mental health that’s coming in 2020.
- The Eddy
More details have emerged about the show Damien Chazelle is making for the service. The Eddy stars André Holland as the emotionally stunted Elliot Udo, a jazz pianist from New York who lives in Paris and is the owner of a failing jazz club. Udo is in an on-off relationship with the lead singer of the his club’s house band and has to contend with his teenage daughter turning up, forcing him to confront his own arrested development.
- Other series in development
We know Brie Larson is starring in a drama based on the book Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA. Foundation is based on the works of science-fiction author Isaac Asimov. My Glory Was I Had Such Friends reunites Alias star Jennifer Garner with J.J. Abrams. Hailee Steinfeld is also starring in a series about American poet Emily Dickinson, aptly titled Dickinson.
Defending Jacob sees Chris Evans play the main character with direction by Morten Tyldum. Pachinko is a historical drama about a Korean family that emigrates to Japan.
The New York Post reported in June that Apple is looking to pump money into six small-budget films per year that would have a shot at an Academy Award. The report claims that Apple is planning to spend between $5 million and $30 million on each of the projects, and that the iPhone maker was inspired by the success Netflix had with Roma.
We know there won’t be much in the way of live sports on Apple TV Plus − at least not in the near future. Apple executive Eddy Cue has said “not a lot” of thought had been put into acquiring rights for sporting events.
Related: Apple TV exclusive shows
Apple TV Plus − Price
How much will it cost? That’s the big question.
Will it use different pricing tiers like Netflix or go for one price to cover all of its original content? We’ve heard conflicting reports.
As usual, Apple is yet to confirm anything, but Bloomberg reported there will be a free trial offer before a $9.99 per month subscription (possibly £9.99 in the UK). If true it would be cheaper than Netflix, but more than we expect Disney Plus to be.
Another report, this time from MacRumours, said there’s code in the upcoming macOS Catalina that implies simultaneous viewing is limited to one device at a time. The suggestion is different tiers would have different restrictions.
Our feeling is that Apple TV Plus will line up in exactly the same manner as Apple Music does – which also limits users to one device – with the Family Sharing plan expanding on the number of devices in play.
What Apple has confirmed is that the service will bundle subscription based channels from other providers through the Apple TV app. The presumption is it will use its own original content to pique customers interest, and make money from hosting or bundling subscriptions to services such as HBO.
With Family Sharing users can share Apple TV Plus and subscriptions to Apple TV channels with their family members. Interestingly, the service will be ad-free.
Apple TV Plus − Platforms
Apple TV Plus will be ensconced in Apple’s refreshed TV app, with access to TV shows, films and content from other providers. Content from other providers will play in the TV app instead of directing you elsewhere as happens with the Freeview app.
Content can be watched online or offline, so you’ll be able to watch films and shows without an internet connection. There does appear to be a download limit, implying you can only download a few episodes at a time.
Related: How to watch Apple TV shows
At WWDC 19 it was confirmed that the Apple Originals will be offered in 4K. Another announcement saw Apple team up with the BBC to shoot underwater footage in 4K HDR for tvOS screensavers. The Apple TV app will also be home to the “largest collection of 4K HDR content to browse, buy and rent”. The TV app will support Dolby Vision HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio.
The service is slated be available on all Apple devices, from the iPad to the Apple TV box. The Apple TV app is, for the time being, exclusively available on select 2018 and all 2019 Samsung smart TVs. The app is expected to come to Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony and VIZIO (a US TV brand) in the future.
Owners of LG and Sony smart TVs will get AirPlay 2 support, allowing them to play videos and other content from their iPhone or iPad to their smart TVs.
Apple TV Plus − Launch date
Reports suggested an October release and Apple responded with “fall”, or autumn for those in the UK. Since then, sources close to Apple have said that the tech giant is targeting a November release date, which would put it alongside Disney Plus.
Apple said the service would launch in 100+ countries at launch, and we’d be surprised if the UK wasn’t one of those countries.
Rumours are flying around that Apple TV Plus will launch with just a handful of shows to its name. That will be a disadvantage, especially to those expecting the libraries Amazon and Netflix have built up.
As Apple is launching its own content alongside subscriptions from other content providers, we don’t expect the UK to get the same options as the US due to licensing issues. For instance, HBO Go is not available in the UK − Sky Atlantic has the rights to HBO content. We did spot BBC/ITV’s Brit Box on the list of content providers.
It has been mooted that Apple TV Plus will go live with five shows in The Morning Show, Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, See, Truth Be Told, and Home, a documentary about flamboyant houses. We expect they’ll be joined by For All Mankind as well.
It also appears to be the case that Apple is still devising a release strategy for its shows. One option is to drop the first three episodes before releasing weekly instalments. It’s certainly a different approach to Netflix which tends to release an entire season at once, and Amazon who have adopted the tried and tested release schedule of one episode per week.
With the September 2019 Keynote on looming large, we’ll be updating this page as more information emerges.