So Apple rolled out Apple TV Plus last week and in testing it out, I think my most common reaction was “Why?”
As in “Why did they make this choice?” and “Why did they even bother to launch the service if they weren’t going to do it right?”
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
So the good news is that the app is well designed, something we’ve come to expect from Apple. The navigation is intuitive, the font choices and layout well thought out and all that. It’s not blow-me-away designed like the Hulu Live TV app with its bold graphics and even bolder move away from the grid. But it’s well done, even if it’s not necessarily the sort of sleek and slick you expect from Apple.
And that’s about it for Nice Things To Say.
There are a couple of new shows too. Like three or four of them. (For real.) There’s The Morning News one with Rachel from Friends and Elle from Legally Blonde that the critics don’t seem to like.
And a documentary about elephants in 4K that looks really cool on my big screen 4K TV.
There’s some free programming, from apps I already subscribe to outside of the Apple ecosystem, like Hulu and HBO. (I assume I had linked them at some point via the Apple TV iPhone app because working in this business that’s the kind of thing I do.)
But mostly there are reruns of older series like Two And A Half Men that were once available on iTunes and which you can have the pleasure of renting for just $2.99 an episode. (That’s on top of your $4.99 subscription fee.)
Now clearly someone thought that was a good idea, a way to capitalize on all those rental and purchase deals they already had in the bag and that it was much more cost effective than, say, buying Tubi or Xumo with some of that $250 billion cash reserve in order to get access to a whole lot of library content they could not charge people for, but rather just include in the subscription price for free.
That’s what we analysts call “pennywise but pound foolish.”
As in no one in their right mind is going to start paying you for reruns, and the reason they’re so popular on Netflix is that once they’re done watching Stranger Things or Bojack or one of the other originals, people want something not very taxing to watch while they’re doing the dishes or checking email and The Office and Friends are just 20 minutes long once you take out the commercials and you don’t need to pay too much attention to them in general because you know that at the end Jim winds up marrying Pam and Rachel winds up with Ross. And better still, there are no commercials to distract you, especially the pharma commercials that make you think about death and dying for sixty seconds straight.
So there’s that.
But mostly there’s the question of what Apple was thinking, why, given their $250 billion war chest, they didn’t just go out and buy a bunch of older hit shows and movies (or a service that had already done so) and have something to populate the app when they launched it.
The one saving grace they may have is that the app is only $4.99 and it’s available free when you buy an Apple device of any sort this year. Though you do need to give them your credit card and agree that it’s okay for them to start auto billing you the minute your deal is up.
And I’m willing to bet that there are many people (myself included) who will forget to cancel the subscription or will figure that if they watch it once each month, it’s worth the $5.
Which is not a great way to build a loyal audience, though it may help you to line your pockets.
So there’s that too.
Check out me talking about it on Cheddar TV this morning: