Only when I scrolled all the way down did I find a dedicated Apple TV+ section, which contained – in typically elegant Apple design – the network news drama of Morning Wars; the alternate history space race For All Mankind; Dickinson’s wild remake of the historic biopic series; and a handful of other debut titles. Based on my expectations, the interface felt back to front but the more I’ve used Apple TV+ the more I’ve come to realise that it’s merely an introduction to the real focus – Apple TV.
Before his death in 2011 – when Netflix was still distributing DVDs by e-mail – Apple’s guiding force, co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, told his biographer Walter Isaacson that he’d figured out how Apple could reinvent the television. “I finally cracked it,” he said. Jobs never got to do for television sets what the Mac did for the personal computer, but Apple TV has something of his drive in terms of moving the goalposts and colonising customers.
Apple TV+ is the gateway to Apple TV, and Apple TV intends to become your personal television. However you watch it, you’ll be getting an aggregation of all your streaming services that allow themselves to be included (Netflix, for example, is having none of this). From there, Apple can integrate its iTunes operation, and recommend third-party titles you can purchase with a few clicks. It has the viewing data to personalise the suggestions and will pocket a cut of the purchase price.
More importantly long-term is that you access Apple TV+ from a menu that lists alongside it other streaming services or channels that are available for subscription. The most prominent for now is 10 All Access, the Australian streaming set up by Network Ten’s American owner, the CBS Corporation. 10 All Access has struggled to build a foothold here, but Apple TV gives it a launch window with a month’s free trial and then a $9.99 monthly charge.
With its hardware base and the ubiquitous Apple accounts that are already in place, Apple is well placed to be the toll road for a streaming future. That’s a long-term tactic, and partly why Apple TV+ isn’t trying for an overwhelming approach. Apple naturally wants to make the best shows it can, but it’s also focused on changing the ecosystem of your screens. At $7.99 a month, Apple TV+ is cheaper than other streaming services, and there’s obviously far less to watch, but perhaps subscriptions is not the metric that will ultimately matter.
It will be fascinating to see what other streaming services, including Stan (which, like this newspaper, is owned by Nine), are willing to be sold through Apple in exchange for exposure via Apple TV. But it’s readily apparent that as far as the corporations that chase viewing audiences are concerned, streaming is the game that matters. With Disney+ imminent, the pressure on Australia’s sole cable service, Foxtel, will only increase as the cord-cutter mentality takes hold. It’s not just audiences overloaded with choices that are going to have some difficult decisions to make in the coming months.