With the arrival of Apple TV+, we’ve lived to see yet another content streaming service arrive on the scene. However, Apple’s offering looks to be part of a new wave of services that operate slightly differently than the ones that have dominated the landscape thus far. Netflix, I'm looking at you — and indeed, there are quite a few differences between Apple TV+ and Netflix. There’s no doubt that these differences will matter quite a bit for those trying to determine whether or not a subscription to one, the other, both, or neither makes sense for them.
Apple TV+ was officially announced in March of 2019 during Apple’s spring keynote at the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. campus. Billed as “the all-new streaming service featuring original stories from the most creative minds in TV and film,” it had been in the works for several years; Apple CEO Tim Cook had first mentioned television as being “of interest to me and other people here” in October of 2016, noting at the same time that the company had “started focusing on some original content.” Indeed, Apple’s first two shows, Planet Of The Apps and Carpool Karaoke: The Series, debuted independently of what’s now become Apple TV+ in 2017.
And now, several years later, Apple TV+ itself is set to debut on Nov. 1, 2019. With a slate of programming featuring big names like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, a sci-fi epic being billed as the next Game Of Thrones starring actual Game Of Thrones alum Jason Momoa, a reboot of a beloved ‘90s classic (hi there, Ghostwriter), and more, it seems posed to become the Next Big Thing in streaming. But the experience of Apple TV+ will be very different from the one offered by Netflix, which has been in the streaming game for almost a decade now. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Means Of Access
Whereas Netflix is currently watchable both from an app and in a regular ol’ web browser, Apple TV+ can only be watched via the Apple TV app. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re limited to watching it on an Apple device (although that’s certainly the easiest way to watch it; the Apple TV app is native to iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Macs); Apple has made the Apple TV app available on Roku streaming devices, some Samsung smart TVs, and some Amazon Fire TVs in advance of Apple TV+’s launch, with more non-Apple devices and platforms slated to get the app sometime in the future. But unlike Netflix, you can’t just boot up a browser on any computer and start watching Apple TV+.
The Apple TV app in and of itself functions differently from Netflix, as well; even without an Apple TV+ subscription, it’s sort of a la carte service, letting you rent or buy movies, individual episodes of televisions, and passes for full seasons of those shows. There’s a small selection of programming you can watch for free, filed under a section appropriately called Free On Apple TV; however, each item you actually pay for must be purchased separately. On Netflix, of course, you just pay one monthly fee for access to the entire Netflix library.
2. Price Per Month
There’s no getting around it: Dollar for dollar, Apple TV+ is cheaper than Netflix. Indeed, at $4.99 per month, it’s one of the most affordable options on the market right now. In contrast, Netflix’s streaming-only plans start at $8.99 per month for the most basic option, which grants you standard definition streaming access on one screen at a time and downloads on one device; the Standard HD plan jumps to $12.99 for high definition streaming on two screens at a time and downloads on two devices; and the Premium Ultra HD plan tops out at $15.99 for streaming on up to four screens, HD and ultra HD available, and downloads on four devices.
Other points worth noting: Apple TV+ doesn’t currently have a tiered pricing scheme — you just pay one flat rate for access to its programming — but that doesn’t mean that it won’t necessarily develop one later on down the line. (Netflix, after all, only introduced their first — and, at the time, only — streaming plan in 2010; up until then, the company’s bread and butter had been DVD rentals. The second streaming plan arrived in 2013, and the third in 2018.) Additionally, Netflix still has DVD rental plans, while Apple TV+ is streaming only.
3. Quantity Of Content
Here’s where we start getting into the biggest differences between Apple TV+ and Netflix: The content. In terms of the actual quantity of content — how much you’ll have access to through each service — it’s worth noting that although Apple TV+ is less expensive than Netflix, it also has much, much less programming for you to actually watch on it.
Netflix has not only its slate of original programming (which, by the way, has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years; according to the company’s current list of Netflix Originals, a whopping 970 titles — both films/one-offs and series — are available on the platform at the time of this writing), but also a huge back catalog of other shows, movies, documentaries, and more — the stuff that Netflix made its name by offering. According to this table on Finder.com, Netflix offers viewers nearly 4,000 different titles right now.
Apple TV+, by comparison has nine. Just nine titles right now — early reviews of which have been somewhat less than stellar. There is more planned; it seems about 50 titles have been ordered so far. What’s more, as BGR notes, the limited content is “by design”; wrote Andy Meek in BGR’s guide to Apple TV+, “the promise here is HBO-style curation, to try and convince subscribers that if it’s here, that’s because we think it’s premium content.” But no matter which way you slice it, Netflix gives you much more for your money.
4. Type Of Content
Not to belabor the point, but again, Apple TV+ is just Apple’s original programming. Everything else you can watch on regular Apple TV isn’t included in the Apple TV+ price; if you want access to it, you’ll have to pay separately to rent or buy each non-Apple TV+ title you want to watch (or link your existing accounts for services like HBO Go, or just hope that what you want to watch is one of the limited titles available on Apple TV for free). Netflix, meanwhile, offers a mix of both original and licensed content, all of which is included in your subscription price (again, Netflix has almost 1,000 Netflix Originals on its platform and nearly 4,000 titles overall).
For the curious, Apple TV+’s nine current releases are The Morning Show, For All Mankind, Ghostwriter, See, Helpsters, Dickinson, Snoopy In Space, Oprah’s Book Club, and a documentary titled The Elephant Queen.
5. Release Of Content
The two services will also differ in terms of how they release their programming — specifically when it comes to series. Netflix typically drops full seasons of its serial programming on the same day — meaning that, if you really want to (and many regularly do!), you can marathon the entire season in one day.
But, reports CNET, Apple TV+ won’t utilize this same release strategy, instead opting for a sort of hybrid between it and a traditional broadcasting schedule. The majority of Apple TV+ series will debut the first three episodes on the initial day of release; then, one new episode will follow each week until the full season has become available. CNET also reports that some Apple TV+ series might drop all in one go, a la Netflix — but it doesn’t sound like that’s going to be the norm.
It’s clear from these differences that Apple TV+ and Netflix hope to suit different viewers and offer very different experiences — possibly in a way that will make the two services complementary to each other, rather than competing with each other. Will the arrival of Disney+ also on the way, only time will tell what the new streaming landscape will look like, let alone how it will function — but either way, it looks like we’re in for an interesting time, indeed.