Apple TV Plus needs more than a passing showreel at the iPhone 14 launch

Almost one year ago to the day, we published a piece detailing the upward trajectory of Apple TV Plus and its threat to the likes of Netflix, Prime Video and Disney Plus.

Apple CEO Tim Cook had just unveiled a showreel of the streamer’s upcoming premieres by way of an introduction to the company’s iPhone 13 launch event. During the brief presentation, Cook also regaled audiences with an account of Apple TV Plus’ programming quality, labeling it “home to the world’s greatest storytellers” and praising its recent awards haul. 

By all accounts – critical, cultural and financial (more on all three later) – that speech and showreel successfully set the streamer on its way to a prosperous next twelve months. But Apple must pay much more attention to Apple TV Plus at this year’s iPhone 14 launch event and beyond if it hopes to truly capitalize on the precarious state of the streaming industry in 2022. Allow us to explain. 

Apple TV Plus has quickly established itself as a high quality entertainment service that offers big-budget content for a low price – that much is true. Its movies and TV shows have, for the most part, been well received by both critics and audiences (CODA ensured the streamer became the first to scoop a Best Picture Oscar), and its market share has grown by 29% in the last 18 months, according to research conducted by streaming analyst JustWatch.

So far, so good, right? Well, yes – but the statuettes and pretty statistics don’t tell the whole story. That 29% market share increase sounds mightily impressive on paper, but it actually represents a jump from 5% to just 6.2%. Netflix and Prime Video, for their part, currently boast just over 27% and 24% of the streaming market, respectively, and while Apple’s streamer has eaten into the shares of both platforms since January 2021, Apple TV Plus is still a far cry from kicking it with the big boys. 

A comparison between streaming service market share over 18 months (Image credit: JustWatch.com)

Apple isn’t doing anything wrong, per se – in fact, it’s doing most things right. Where Netflix and Prime Video have lost subscribers in recent years, the streamer has managed – like Disney Plus and HBO Max – to substantially grow its customer base and cultural standing in very little time. But Apple TV Plus needs even more care and attention if Tim Cook and company hope to truly threaten the order of the industry. 

Apple’s streamer still feels like an afterthought; a fun experiment for the richest brand on the planet. The Cupertino giant rightly priotitizes the sale of its iPhones, MacBooks and AirPods over the expansion of Apple TV Plus’ content library, but a handful of Emmy Award-winning series and Martin Scorsese-directed movies (look out for Killers of the Flower Moon next year) isn’t and won’t be enough to make Netflix and Disney executives quake in their boots. 

Ted Lasso is among the few tent-pole shows on Apple TV Plus (Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

The problem, it seems, is that Apple – a company currently valued in excess of $2 trillion – has little interest in creating the world’s biggest streamer. That’s not strictly an issue in itself – Apple is not obliged to want to be at the top of the streaming pile – but this sentiment makes Apple TV Plus a hard sell to customers in the long-term. 

Yes, the likes of Ted Lasso, Foundation, Severance, Slow Horses, CODA and Prehistoric Planet are all great, but how many more must-watch Apple movies and TV shows can you name? Two? Maybe three? This limited library is the reason the service only costs a very reasonable $4.99 / £4.99 / $AU$7.99 per month – but, by the same token, Apple TV Plus is still not a suitable alternative to increasingly expensive streamers like Netflix and Disney Plus. 

Amazon recently demonstrated its commitment to streaming by investing $1 billion in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

At the company’s imminent iPhone 14 reveal event, then, we’re hoping for something more than a glitzy showreel from Tim Cook’s presentation. Perhaps news of a licensing agreement for non-Apple content? Or maybe a slate of in-development projects that makes customers feel as if they have to subscribe indefinitely? Even spending more than a seemingly obligatory five minutes on the subject would go a long way to helping sell Apple TV Plus to the millions watching worldwide. You’re the best in the business at selling stuff, Apple – why not use that expertise to force audiences to sit up and take notice of your streaming platform?

If it doesn’t, the streamer’s market share may well continue to grow – but another 29% jump would still only turn its 6.2% stake into 7.9%. And, what with Netflix and Disney Plus embracing ad-supported subscription tiers in the coming months, Apple’s window of opportunity to truly make its mark on the streaming world is closing fast. 

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