Apple May Have to Launch Apple TV+ as a Free Service

Disney+ logo
Disney+ logo
Image credit: Disney

Disney+ has launched so many salvos at Apple TV+ that Apple may have no choice but to make the service free, at least initially. There were several recent articles that, taken together, make this case.

  1. Mashable: Disney+ deal scores you 33% off of a 3-year subscription
  2. CNET: Disney Plus will give you 4 simultaneous streams, 4K and HDR for no extra cost
  3. Business Insider: The biggest question mark about Apple’s new TV service is price

The aggregate story contained these articles is that Disney+ has continued to fire a series of bold shots across Apple’s bow.

1. When you sign up for Disney’s D23 club membership (which has a free tier), you can get a subscription to Disney+ for the next three years at just $141.

That’s US$3.92/month for three years.

2. Disney Plus’ $7-a-month subscription will include four simultaneous streams; videos with 4K, UHD and High Dynamic Range picture quality; and seven different user profiles, all at no extra cost.

Nice. And finally…

3. Apple has a ton of star power attached to this service, but if Apple TV Plus hopes to succeed against Disney Plus, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Amazon Prime Video, it will need to compete on pricing. It’s one of the only aspects people really care about.

With Disney+ at $3.92/month for three years, Apple has just about no choice but to make Apple TV+ free for some period of time. Or bundle it with another service for free for a long period of time.

Business Insider again…

Once Apple TV Plus has been around for awhile — maybe a year or two — Apple can consider raising prices. But it should be relatively affordable at first.

But, at $3.92, Apple can’t really undercut Disney in terms of “more affordable.” Something lower would appear unseemly. The only way out, it seems, is to make TV+ free for a year or two and save face, stating this was the plan all along.  (And it was. The first price leak we heard about was “free on Apple devices.” A good plan.)

Disney has outmaneuvered Apple.

More News Debris

• This next is from MediaPlay News and is most welcome. “UHD Alliance Launches New ‘Filmmaker’ Viewing Mode.

Current TVs use advanced video processing capabilities to offer consumers a broad range of options in viewing various types of content, ranging from sports to video games. Filmmaker Mode will allow viewers to enjoy a more cinematic experience on their UHD TVs when watching movies by disabling all post-processing (e.g. motion smoothing, etc.) so the movie or television show is displayed as it was intended by the filmmaker, preserving the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates, according to the Alliance.

This will also eliminate the annoying “soap opera effect” when too much smoothing is applied to certain content. What hasn’t been discussed is whether this mode can be applied to older UHD/4K TVs via a software upgrade.

8K TVs on display
Samsung’s QLED brand is not to be confused with OLED technology.

• Meanwhile, “8K Association Announces Key TV Performance Specs.

Covering parameters for 8K input (bit depth, frame rate, chroma sub-sampling), display performance (resolution, peak brightness, black level, color gamut, white point), interface, and media formats, the new technical specification is built around HDMI 2.1 and the HEVC (high efficiency video coding) codec and specifies a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 (or 33 million) pixels … input frame rates of 24p, 30p, and 60p frames per second (fps); and display luminance that exceeds 600 nits peak luminance.

UHD/4K TVs are now mainstream. But 8K is coming along, and you can bet that TV makers will conjure up technologies that make 8K TVs compelling, very much independent of the idea that one can’t exploit the 8K resolution unless one sits really close to the TV. That notion will have to be overcome via technology and marketing. Count on it.

• Several readers have asked me about ATSC 3.0, an over-the-air broadcast standard. While it’s six weeks old, this next article is a good introduction. “ATSC 3.0: Free 4K HDR Broadcast TV Is Finally Coming and Here’s What it Means for You.

… the new technology has finally been kicked off by several U.S TV stations and it means the capacity to deliver 4K ultra HD resolution at up to a very robust 120 Hz along with HDR mastering and wide color gamut (a part of HDR basically).

All that consumers will need is either a 4K TV with ATSC 3.0 support or a tuner with ATSC 3.0 functionality and any tuner-supporting 4K TV. Neither of these exist yet of course …

• Finally, we know Apple does its best to introduce new features, each year, in its newest iPhone to make it a compelling choice. Here is, perhaps, one of those features. “iPhone 11 Exclusive Camera Feature Just Leaked.

The new technology will allow people to take video and automatically remove the background using AI-based depth analysis. It was developed by Spektral, a Danish company that has managed to analyze video at 60 frames per second using machine learning and computer vision.

It’s just one of many new features we’ll see on the iPhone 11 that makes its case to customers.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article(s) of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

7 thoughts on “Apple May Have to Launch Apple TV+ as a Free Service

  • There will be plenty of families wanting to pay for 3 years of Disney. If you like DC or Star Wars, you might have a reason. The rest of the world can dip in and out of even the mighty Disney, so they know… just as streaming is ephemeral (customer owns nothing), so is customer loyalty.

    As for Apple, all the other Originals were paid for and launched on the backs of already successful services (if you consider Netflix successful – it has a lot of customers, just no viable business model). Either Apple has a catalogue it hasn’t revealed or it’s going to do something nobody else in the streaming content business has done… use its deep pockets to fund a loss leader, no matter how much it costs… $10, $20 a month will not cover the investment, much less profit, much less Apple-sized profit.

    Disney has definitely served notice… it intends to be one of the last standing.

    Apple is likely playing a different game that hasn’t been revealed yet. Skating to where the puck will be. Just how far into the future is this puck?

    I see a few stages of the streaming debacle. Nobody is making a profit right now, even Netflix with a deep catalogue. That catalogue will go away as distributors attempt to set up their own streaming services. And Netflix will be left with its Originals, becoming an HBO style service, making less ‘profits’, but surviving the ‘great take back’ by distributors. After a lot of blood and treasure is lost creating subscription fatigue and month to month customers they can’t rely on, distributors will go back to one or two big services and try to MAKE a Netflix at least profitable, so that distributors can make -some- money on streaming.

    Apple seems to be skating towards the world of a million (distributor) streaming services, all wanting $20/month but not getting it. Maybe Apple has a plan to gobble up distributors’ content when they’re desperate. Cue has always had the attitude of ‘no worries, you’ll come to us’. I just don’t see how Apple Originals or tv+ streaming will survive until then. Unless it’s deep pockets and Quality, which I’m unconvinced anyone really wants. Based on some of the other services Originals, it’s about quantity, so customers have something, anything to watch when they turn on the tube, stay with their service and not look to others.

  • John:

    To paraphrase Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan…until they get punched in the face. Anyone who has ever done any martial arts of any kind can relate. Indeed, adaptation to the unique features of any fight lies at the heart of Bruce Lee’s fighting philosophy of form-free fighting, and being like water – assuming the shape of the situation.

    Disney, despite Uncle Walt’s nice guy demeanour, has just punched Apple in the face (score round 1 to Mickey and fear the Mouse). Whatever Apple’s original plan, and as you’ve pointed out, it included a free component, Apple now have to adapt and become like water – and assume the shape of this fight.

    In this case, that would be to cut off the mouse’s tail (sorry about all the belligerent metaphors) by running Apple TV+ as a loss leader…ostensibly indefinitely, but in practice only as long as necessary to knock the wind out the competition and bring them to their knees. Apple have the war chest and therefore the firepower to do this longer than practically anyone. Indeed, during the free phase, they can continue to rollout compelling shows piecemeal, adding mounting pressure on their competitors until they tap out and sue for peace.

    I’m reminded of Joe Jitsu, Dick Tracy’s cartoon (and stereotyped) side-kick who, whilst kicking the criminals’ butts, would say ‘so sorry’. Yes, TC and Apple hath the chops to be that under-estimated competitor; polite, ruthless, lethal, but ultimately making the world safe for family-oriented content.

  • Granted, this site is generally written with an Apple-centric context, but Disney’s moves have put *everyone* on notice, whether existing players like Netflix, or newcomers like Apple.

    It will be interesting to see how Apple responds. “Free” and Apple aren’t often used in the same sentence, but it will either have to get creative with pricing, or a bundle of services like what Amazon did to launch Prime Video and get it off the ground.

    If Apple tries to engage in a straight fight, with an unproven roster of shows and who knows what else, it may find itself in a difficult situation.

  • you can get a subscription to Disney+ for the next three years at just $141.

    Disney+ is a subscription service? I mean not month to month, but you sign up for a multi year contract? One you are stuck with if you tire of what they offer?
    Oh hell no. Pass.
    The reason we had Netflix and have CBS All Access is that I can go in at any time and shut it off. We can switch between services like these or Acorn, or a dozen others. That flexibility is a critical feature for me. My cell phone is month to month. My cable service was (before we shut it off) month to month. My internet access is month to month. I’ll be damned if I’m going to sign a multi year contract with Disney.

  • AppleTV+ will not be an Apple moment. Apple money can let them prop it up for, well forever. Apple, cut and run now.. Others are doing this Apple. Doing it Ok for now. THEY will get better. Apple this is NOT your expertise. Never has been, never will be. Your embarrassment will always bE worse than the money loss.

    Oh yeah, same with Apple News +

    Apple remember how you rightfully laughed at Microsoft? You are becoming THAT company.

  • The aggregate story contained these articles is that Disney+ has continued to fire a series of bold shots across Apple’s bow.

    Let me know when Shakespeare+ fires a soliloquy across Apple’s bow. I don’t have much interest in Disney, but I do in the “arts”, the milage of other folks may vary.

    1. Ooh I wish there was profit outside DC, Star Wars and Star Trek, but the numbers lie there. Apple touts quality, but I don’t see where profitability lies. Yes Apple has other services it can bundle and increase Apple Originals prices as the catalogue builds, but Netflix Originals are about quantity, not quality, so customers have something/anything to watch, stick with Netflix and not look to other services. Quantity worked for decades for television and cable because a lot of folks just need something on in the background. Dimming the lights, taking a good wine and some fine Apple television content will be a small market indeed.

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