9 April 2019
The Netflix edge is that you pay one monthly fee and you can watch everything. There are no restrictions on the content library. If you see something in the app, either overtly recommended or found through search, you can just watch it.
The Apple TV proposition is not that. Apple is reselling ‘channels’ from networks like HBO and Showtime, and essentially offering its own channel of original content in the form of Apple TV+. As the TV app synthesises content from many sources, looking for something to watch will involve skipping past a lot of recommendations that are not accessible to you.
Let’s say you pay up the as-yet-undisclosed monthly bill for Apple TV+. You can’t freely browse inside the TV app. The TV app is going to show you content from other sources that you don’t yet pay for. Content that you can’t watch unless you cough up. Apple TV+ will only include new Apple exclusive shows — about two dozen at launch. There’s no back catalogue to fall back to. The TV app will have to recommend other sources otherwise the app will feel like a barren wasteland. Apple is also financially incentivised to advertise Apple TV Channels to its users.
The latest iOS and tvOS betas include the new TV app and demonstrate exactly this. Scroll around and you quickly run into banners for Showtime with one-click buttons to sign up and subscribe. It is contradictory to me that Apple designed the TV app in this way, a pseudo-advertising platform, at a time when many people are switching to streaming services because they want to get away from ads and commercial breaks. This factor alone will limit the enjoyment of the Apple TV+ service and impair its adoption.
I believe Apple TV+ will foster talent and debut many incredible shows, but I don’t like the idea of navigating past buy buttons when I just want to watch TV. As it stands, Apple will not provide that experience. I would like to be able to tell the TV app to only show me stuff I am subscribed to, but I am not convinced that Apple will ever include an option like that as it would hurt the sales of Apple TV Channels.