How should we think about Apple TV+ in a world of content behemoths like Netflix and Disney? Is it a standalone service looking to take on all comers, or something else? Looking at the experience, content, and much-touted download functionality, it is, at best, a supporting actor in a much broader strategic play.
Where is the Apple TV+ app?
Unlike Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu, there isn’t a standalone Apple TV+ (ATV+) app. The concept of ATV+ only exists within the context of the Apple TV app. It appears within the app as a channel where it sits cheek-by-jowl with content from other “channels” like HBO and CBS.
Apple is trying to execute on the same aggregator strategy as rival Amazon, with its successful Channels SVOD partner program. Apple wants to market other SVOD provider content inside the Apple TV app and share in the revenue generated therein. That is why Apple did the unthinkable earlier this year and announced it would port the Apple TV app to a range of other connected TV devices.
So, ATV+ content can’t really be considered as a standalone offering. It is part of a much bigger picture, which is good because the content provided for $4.99 a month is decidedly thin.
The experience of Apple TV+
After using Apple TV with ATV+ content on both an Apple TV box and a Roku, I can say the company has done a great job delivering the same great experience on both platforms. Further, the company has gone to the trouble of integrating ATV+ into the cross-platform voice search provided by Roku. Do a voice search on For All Mankind, and the show pops up allowing the viewer to launch the app and watch it in a couple of clicks.
Streaming the shows has been a flawless experience so far. As well, the picture quality has been outstanding, whether watching in 4K or 1080p.
As a TV experience, Apple TV with ATV+ is mostly polished and easy to use, though well short of the “reinventing TV” objective hinted at by Steve Jobs. However, one feature does not meet the high standard we’ve come to expect from Apple and will disappoint the company’s legions of mobile users.
The most basic download facility
Apple CEO Tim Cook proudly proclaimed that everything available through ATV+ can be downloaded. Sure, a user can select any of the shows to download to their device. However, even the most basic controls of the process are missing.
Netflix lets a user select the download quality, which allows them to boost download speed and reduce the memory the video file absorbs. Netflix also allows a user to automatically download the next episode of a show and delete watched episodes. Apple does none of this. A user can select a show to download, cancel the download, and delete a video. That’s it. Moreover, downloads are very, very slow!
No more, no less than a few shows
Apple TV+ is just as its name suggests: something additional to spice up the Apple TV experience. Outside of the millions of new Apple device owners that will try it for free, it is unlikely to attract the number of paying customers of its much bigger rivals.
For Apple TV to be a success, it must become the default daily TV app for millions of viewers. ATV+ will deliver weekly viewers at best. So, it is questionable if it will provide meaningful assistance in stoking the fires of Apple TV’s aggregation goals.
As to the download functionality, Apple needs to do much better.
Why it matters
Apple TV+ lacks the content to be a serious contender against market leaders like Netflix and Hulu.
Its value, if it has any, is helping establish the Apple TV app as the daily default TV option for millions of viewers.
The download functionality provided is rudimentary and lets down the enter experience.