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How Apple TV+ and Disney+ Have Leveraged TV Ads Leading Up To Launch Day

As of today, two new entrants into the streaming wars are officially up and running: Apple TV+ and Disney+. It remains to be seen exactly how things will shake out among the newcomers and incumbents — will subscribers be wooed towards one or another, dropping current subscriptions in favor of a shiny new one? 

Rebecca Lerner, Executive Vice President at MadHive says “The launch of Disney+ will lead to more consumers weighing their options. Ultimately this will be good for ad-supported models. With so many subscription services out there, many current and future cord-cutters will likely prioritize a couple, then delve deeper into ad-supported services through a smart TV or streaming device for everything else.”

“The launches of Apple TV+ and Disney+ will immediately impact the streaming and overall media marketplace, as the companies deliver their premium, recognizable content to audiences and fans,” says Beachfront CEO Chris Maccaro. “As more in-demand, high-quality video is introduced to streaming environments, audiences are more encouraged to make those services (Disney+, Apple TV+ and others) a larger part of their viewing habits — providing additional opportunities for brands and content owners to monetize against consistently growing viewership.”

Only time will tell when it comes to consumer demand for the new services, but one thing we can examine right now is how Apple and Disney have approached marketing on TV. (For the record, it’s not lost on us the somewhat humorous fact that even OTT services need the expansive reach of live television — especially sports — to generate awareness and demand ahead of launch day.)

Below, we examine TV advertising trends for the two leading up to their respective launches (data is through Nov. 10), courtesy of always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv.

Apple TV+

Earlier this month, The New York Times referred to Apple TV+’s television advertising as a “slow-roll marketing push,” and for good reason: The company dipped its toe into TV advertising in mid-August, with small outlays followed by longer periods of silence until Sept. 22, when it made a huge push during NFL football. 

Apple TV+’s 13 commercials have generated 2.7 billion TV ad impressions from about 3,200 airings, and have an iSpot Attention Index of 148, meaning its spots have received 48% fewer interruptions than the industry average. 

Commercials for the new streaming service are focused on the content that will be available: A spot for The Morning Show, which stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, is the most-seen so far with 737.7 million impressions, followed by See with Jason Momoa (682.1 million impressions) and For All Mankind with 553.8 million impressions.

Aside from ESPN, broadcast networks have racked up the most impressions for Apple TV+ so far: NBC leads (457.7 million impressions), followed by Fox (392.2 million), CBS (373.2 million), ABC (253.9 million) and ESPN (202.6 million). 

In terms of programming generating the most impressions, NFL football leads by a mile with 798.2 million impressions, followed by college football (185.7 million) and the 2019 World Series (92.9 million). Non-sports-related programming bringing in eyeballs includes The Voice (44.7 million impressions) and Today (42.1 million).


Disney+ aimed for maximum impact and buzz with its inaugural spot, which announced pre-orders: It happened to be the very first ad of the first commercial break of 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Fox, and it generated 5.7 million impressions that evening. Since then, the company has aired 20 commercials over 2,500 times, resulting in 1.3 billion impressions. Both spend and impressions ramped up considerably as launch day approached. 

ESPN leads for the network with the most impressions (173.8 million), followed by Fox (169.3 million) and Freeform (160.4 million). 

Sports has also played an important role in generating impressions for Disney+: NFL football has scored 166.3 million impressions, the 2019 World Series resulted in 76.6 million and SportsCenter generated another 43.4 million. Rounding out the top five list of programs by impressions is Good Morning America (38.5 million impressions) and college football (38.1 million). 

The most-seen Disney+ commercial so far is “We’re All Connected” with 318.6 million TV ad impressions. It has a nostalgic feel, featuring clips from many of its famed productions, from the OG Star Wars and Finding Nemo to Iron Man and Beauty and the Beast; indeed, “all of your favorites,” as the ad proclaims. In second place is a promo for The Mandalorian (309.4 million impressions) followed by another montage clip “Something Very Rare” (174.8 million impressions).

Header Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash