Strategies for Streaming Movies and TV Shows on Apple TV

Apple TV 4K.

The number of streaming services seems to grow every day. How can an Apple TV customer make sense of it all?

Apple TV 4K
The Apple TV is simple. Selecting content is not.

When I started to look at all the streaming services available, I realized that listing them all and citing content is a hopeless task. Never mind finding 4K/UHD content for an Apple TV 4K. Never mind isolating HDR titles. (That will be a future article.) Just focusing on some personal preferences with a manageable approach is daunting.


Instead, looking at some strategies seems to make sense. That’s because there are many different interests and concerns to think about. For example:

  1. Is a cable or satellite system already in place? (With live sports coverage a given.) Or is being a cord-cutter a priority?
  2. Are there technical preferences? For example, the pursuit of 4K content.
  3. Are there brand loyalty preferences? For example, loyal to Apple but not to cable TV provider and its streaming offerings?
  4. Are there cost constraints in the form of a monthly total outlay?
  5. Are there certain personal interests and services that cater to them? For example, family shows. Or science fiction. Or mysteries.
  6. Are there multiple family members, each of whom has specific viewing interests that are fulfilled by certain known services. For example, Marvel on Netflix.
  7. Can a TV series or movie that’s being heavily promoted (and priced accordingly high) be deferred until later when it may cost less? Other content on one’s list of desired shows to pursue may fill the time until that special content becomes less expensive.

Given the above thoughts, the goal is to match these constraints and desires to a purchase strategy of available streaming services.

One way to do that is to take a look at a website called JustWatch. There, you’ll find a list of all the major streaming services: Netflix, Amazon, Apple iTunes, Hulu, and many more. You can select one and use the many filters below the list to identify the kinds of content they offer.
JustWatch is enormously helpful.

This approach is certainly better than simply gazing at the services offered by tvOS in after you first set up the Apple TV (4K). That presentation on Apple TV is pretty but uninformed.

Apple TV highlighted streaming services.
Pretty but unhelpful.

Sample Strategies

You may have already developed your own streaming services strategy. However, for those who are a bit bewildered, here are some to try on for size. They may inspire you to develop your own.

Strategy #1. Let’s say you already have a cable or satellite subscription at some level. That probably provides the major networks and ESPN‚ which gets you all the major, live sports. Most TV providers on-demand movies as a supplement, but if you’re like most, you supplement that with a Netflix subscription (on Apple TV) for a rich selection of content for about US$11.00/month (HD) or $14.00/month (UHD). That may be all you’ll ever need.

Strategy #2. Perhaps you’ve cut the cord and don’t have a cable or satellite provider. You’re not interested in live sports. However, because you’re an Amazon Prime customer (which is a great deal), you also have access to selected content with the Amazon Prime Video app. It’s available for iOS but not yet for tvOS. In addition, there may be specific shows on HBO NOW or Showtime that you favor, and these have modest monthly costs.

The nice thing about these packages purchased on Apple TV with your iTunes account is that you can manage them in your account settings and renew or cancel as the need or preference arises. See “Here’s How to Cancel iTunes Subscriptions like CBS All Access.” This allows easy mixing and matching if your initial portfolio of streaming services doesn’t meet your needs.

Strategy #3. Also for cord-cutters. Set up monthly budget, say, half of what you were paying for a cable subscription. Then select the three or four of the major streaming services to fill out the cost target. For example, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and CBS All Access (with or without commercials.) That may give you 99% of what you’ll ever need. Finally, if desired, supplement, those with sports packages. It may require some trial and error to get the right mix.

Strategy #4. Back to cable/satellite. I know that DIRECTV provides for on-demand viewing of some network shows after they’ve aired. I presume others do as well. If you want to supplement that, the major networks all have (generally free) tvOS apps that allow you to watch, on-demand, at a later time if you have a cable/satellite subscription and use single sign-on.

Closing Thoughts

Basically, the number of streaming apps, each app’s content, and the services offered (4K, ad free, etc.) is out of control. And it’s geting worse. See: “Disney Pulling Marvel, Star Wars Movies from Netflix for its Own Streaming Service.” And so, it’s helpful to have a strategy. Get your toes wet, start with a major service like Netflix, and then expand as needed and budget allows. If desired, sprinkle in known favorite shows on the secondary services.

The trick is accepting that there will be holes in your coverage no matter what you do.

There is now more streaming content online than anyone person can watch in a lifetime. Having specific entertainment preferences and a monthly budget helps narrow the field and brings focus amidst the dizzying and growing array of offerings.

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