There’s Plenty to Watch on Apple TV+, But Hardly Anyone is Paying For it. What’s The Solution?

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Apple TV+

We’ve suspected it for a while, but new data seems to confirm it – hardly anyone is actually paying for Apple TV+. More worryingly for Apple, a chunk of those users never intend to do so when their free trial ends.

The Apple TV+ Freeloader Dilemma

Analysis released by MoffettNathan, reported on by Variety, last week found that 62 percent of Apple TV+ users in Q4 2020 were using Apple TV+ as part of a free trial. It gets worse – 29 percent of those people said they did not intend to subscribe and pay-up after this ended. Indeed, just 30 percent saying they planned to renew for $4.99 per month. Everyone else was unsure. This comes on top of recent data from JustWatch that revealed that Apple TV+ had just three percent market share in the U.S. in that same quarter. Perhaps then, it should come as no surprise that the Apple TV+ free trial period has now been extended through July 2021. When that extension was first announced, I wrote that I didn’t get what the strategy was. And, truthfully, I still don’t. But a policy of neverending free ‘trials’ probably doesn’t work.

Apple TV+ Free Forever?

One possible solution posited when discussing this with my colleagues, was that you will never be asked to pay directly for Apple TV+, but if you want it for more than a year you’ll need to buy an Apple One bundle. I can definitely see this happening, although it rather relies on people thinking the iCloud offer is worth it, especially if they are not interested in the games on Apple Arcade. I’ve always calculated that one service you don’t want still means a bundle worthwhile. Two? That’s less clear psychologically, if not financially.

Perhaps Apple could just come out and say they are never going to ask anyone to pay? Maybe, but TV and film is expensive to produce, license etc. I’m not sure even Apple can simply give it away for free permanently with new devices. “We remain concerned about future subscriber churn if there is a slow device cycle and users choose not to renew on their own,” the MoffettNathan analysts said in their report. I also don’t see how access to the service is going to be enough to entice non-Apple users into ‘switching sides’ and buying an iPhone or another device for hundreds or thousands of dollars. If they wanted it that much they could spend US$4.99 and watch it over Chrome or Firefox on a non-Apple device and probably still be in profit.

Time to Rip Off The Band-Aid

Of course, Apple TV+ could just get canned, but I think everyone is in too deep for that. This is not Quibi. Personally, I think the answer is to rip off the Band-Aid – no more free trial extensions. By that point, there should be enough content on there for people to decide whether it is worth it or not. It also means commissioning decisions will be made on the basis that the content is good enough that people want to pay for it, not just good enough. I understand that rival streamers have a far greater back catalog, but good content, a competitive standalone price point, and inclusion in bundles should be enough to make paying for Apple TV+ worthwhile for a significant number of users.

11 thoughts on “There’s Plenty to Watch on Apple TV+, But Hardly Anyone is Paying For it. What’s The Solution?

  • Totally disagree. There is nothing to watch and tv+ is tailored only to a group think culture and looks down in any ideological view outside Silicon Valley/Hollywood pc culture. It is an ideological 2 dimensional culdesac and will continue to be dumped a great percent of potential paying consumers that don’t want to pay for the privilege of being preached to.

    ‘’TLDR, Apple TV+ is garbage and is failing even though it’s being given away for free, and desperately giving “rebates” for phony accounting to try to make the service look less of the loser than it actually is. I dumped it, even for free it wasn’t worth a darn.

    1. I don’t agree with your thought that Apple should “rip the bandage off”. Price is ok, but there is not enough content of interest to me (I’ve seen all the ones I want) and lots of worthless dogs. I don’t have anything to watch since Dec…..for $4.99/mo.
    2. What makes me very unhappy is that the annual purchase of a new device (of any kind) does not earn one another free year of Apple TV+. (You only get one free year per Apple ID.) I like the idea of having the free year promo be tied to a device purchase. I bought a new iP 12 PM….and yet I don’t qualify for another promo year.
    3. If Apple had required subscription, I would have deleted the app/service in Dec. But I’m glad that they extended it to Jan 31…and now June 30. Maybe there will be something I want to watch.
    4. My Plan at this point: If Apple has something I want to watch, I’ll pay 4.99/month to binge watch it. Then cancel the service…..until the next time.
  • The main problem for me is the small screen problem. It is too difficult to watch TV+ content on a large screen TV. A few fairly new televisions will allow you to add the App directly. Without the app you have to use a streaming device. Annoying and makes me commit to a separate ecosystem from Apple or fork over another investment just to watch th content. The real cost is higher than $4.99.

  • I have so many apple services, but even the top tier Apple One service seems too costly for what I might actually use on any sort of regular basis.
    I would rather pay $25/month for the full bundle. That I would do if it also had Apple TV+. Apple Music for the family (kids pound this one), iCloud plus a second iCloud for the rest of the family unit (needs to be 10 not 6). Haven’t really played many games on my 3 apple TV’s (even my kids don’t tend to play games on it. Never use News. Fitness I might use, but I need to get an apple watch maybe.

    So I would like to like all of these things, but they are a tad too expensive for the intensity of my use. I would like some better options for my family’s needs.

    I like many of the shows on Apple TV+ and I think they are really building a nice library. Time will fill it all out so patience is needed by Apple. They need to play for the long game and they do have the bankroll for it.

  • Charlotte:

    Apple notoriously does ‘different’. Sometimes that involves taking the road less travelled, never travelled or even the road where even angels, certainly conventional wisdom, fear to tread. 

    My observation is that one of three consumer responses will follow, in no particular order or frequency. One, the product or service is immediately and massively taken up, eg the iPhone. Two, there is a lag followed by either a slow and steady march or the former followed by a sharp uptick in adoption, eg the Mac post SJ2. Third, there is a trickle of adoption, the thing lingers and is eventually abandoned, eg Apple servers. 

    Practically every one of these responses follows a stereotyped sequence. First, scepticism, when not open derision. Second, predictions of doom not simply for the product, but claims of creative bankruptcy, Apple having lost their way, and the thing being portent of impending doom for the company in toto. Third, consumer adoption, in conformity one of the three patterns described above. Fourth, when popular or otherwise compelling, imitation and adoption by the industry writ large. 

    However, there is one further, essential observation. The products that experience uptake, at whatever pace, are compelling because they solve a problem or address an unmet need. They might do so with a problem that no one has yet solved or a need that no one has either identified or addressed, or they might do so with a more compelling solution, even if that solution excels primarily on the basis of aesthetic. And just in case (as has often occurred) critics dismiss aesthetic as merely cosmetic and therefore superficial and of little added value, ie brand marketing or gimmickry, then let them explain and dismiss the compelling power of art with equal contempt. Aesthetic inspires attention, use and creativity in the observer, even if it be so simple as a melody, a painting or a clean and tidy workspace. The server died, for example, not because it was not a good product; it did not solve an unsolved problem, nor did it address an unmet need, apart from that of a loyal, but ultimately non-sustainable, fan base. 

    With respect to Apple TV+, it is not yet clear that Apple have done any of the above in problem solving or addressing unmet needs. There are a plethora of competing products, all of which have taken the road most travelled. These were all services that provided libraries of legacy content prior to rolling out their own home studio derived products, which leads to the opening statement about which road Apple travels. Apple are forging a new road, angels be damned. Its success, if past is prologue, hinges on whether or not they solve a problem that no one has solved, address an unmet need, or at the very least, provide a compelling aesthetic solution to either of the above. It is not clear whether a bundle offering has a sufficient support base of uptake in order to keep all components in the black. 

    While yours truly doesn’t pretend to have even a faux crystal ball, he will predict that, unless Apple intend to continue this service at a loss (unprecedented in Apple’s modus operandi), they will have to pull at least one of those three rabbits out the hat in order for this subscription service to succeed. And soon. 

    There is a fourth option. 

    It may be that, during a time of a plethora of content at cost, particularly during an economic downturn, Apple might not cancel, but suspend their offering, and bring it back a time not simply of greater discretionary spending, but to a next generation audience eager for the type of content that Apple offer. 

    As ever, adoption is as much about a product as it is about the consumers willing to purchase it, which speaks volumes about what those consumers value. 

    1.  Apple might not cancel, but suspend their offering, and bring it back a time not simply of greater discretionary spending, but to a next generation audience eager for the type of content that Apple offer. 

      That would be the Magrathea Option?

  • I’ve always calculated that one service you don’t want still means a bundle is worthwhile. Two? That’s less clear psychologically, if not financially.

    That’s been my calculus. However, I looked at the bundles and the answer keeps coming down on the no side. I use iCloud a lot. ATV+? We just dropped the free trial, we just never used it, never saw anything that drew us in. Arcade? I tried it in December, and let it lapse, I was not impressed with the assortment. Fitness? Uhhh…no. Same with News. So at this point iCloud and AppleCare are the only services I use, and I don’t see that changing.

  • Good points. I think Apple might want to look into partnering with another service. Maybe Disney. We’re all beginning to see where this is going. Way too many streaming services to pay for. Networks and studios might just consider partnering up with bundles (like say, Disney + with Apple + and maybe Hulu).

    1. That is the big issue: everyone wants their $10/mo. I’ve heard more and more people grumbling about this and wishing that there were one service that they could get for like $50/mo that would carry everything (you know, like cable 😁).

      If someone is deciding on which two or three services they’re going to go with, Apple just doesn’t have the catalogue to compete with a Disney+ or CBSAllAccess, or Netflix. What’s more they won’t even in a few years. Those other services have thousands of titles and catalogues going back over half a century in some cases.

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