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.

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John Kheit

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… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by John Kheit

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. 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… Read more »


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… Read more »



Last edited 1 year ago by paikinho
W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

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… Read more »


 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?

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

Nice one, geoduck! Yes, but with sub-galactic consequence.


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,… Read more »


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).


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.