Apple TV Plus: Everything to know about Apple’s $5-a-month streaming service



Apple TV Plus talent gathers with CEO Tim Cook in March in the lobby of the Steve Jobs Theater.

Art Streiber/Apple

Apple on Tuesday finally explained what Apple TV Plus is all about (well, almost all about). With a reported budget of $6 billion to rope in some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Apple TV Plus will launch Nov. 1 for $5 a month. People who buy a new Apple gadget get to watch free for a year, while everyone else qualifies for a seven-day free trial. Apple TV Plus was first announced at a star-studded event in March, but the company stayed mum about the crucial details until its iPhone event on Tuesday.

Apple TV Plus, the Netflix-like subscription service featuring Apple’s original TV shows and movies, will launch with nine confirmed titles, including a drama starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, a post-apocalyptic thriller starring Jason Momoa and a comedy about poet Emily Dickinson starring Hailee Steinfeld. 

At a preview screening of Dickinson on Saturday, creator Alena Smith described the show as a “crazy psychedelic” version of the 1850s, where Steinfeld plays the young poet cursing in contemporary slang while wearing a corset, and rapper Wiz Khalifa shows up as a personification of death in the first episode. John Mulaney will appear later as Henry David Thoreau, one of Dickinson’s heroes who turns out to be a “total phony,” according to Smith, and Zosia Mamet will guest star as Little Women writer Louisa May Alcott, who apparently visits the Dickinsons for Christmas. 

After launch, the nine programs will be expanded by another five that Apple confirmed it will add in the following months. “Most” Apple TV Plus series will premiere with three episodes available immediately, followed by one new episode weekly, Apple said. Full seasons of “some” series will be available all at once.

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The other programs available on Apple TV Plus at launch are confirmed to be: a series featuring Oprah Winfrey; Helpsters, a Sesame Street spinoff; a kids program called Ghostwriter; animated series Snoopy in Space; and The Elephant Queen, a documentary movie the company acquired at the Toronto Film Festival.

Apple CEO Tim Cook isn’t playing at modesty. He heralded Apple TV Plus as “unlike anything that’s been done before” in March. Here’s everything we know.  

What’s Apple’s TV service like? 

Apple TV Plus will be subscription streaming service to watch the company’s original series and movies exclusively. 

Like Netflix, it won’t have ads. 

Unlike Netflix, it won’t release full seasons of its shows all at once in a binge-able bunch. “Most” Apple TV Plus series will premiere three episodes followed by one new episode every week, Apple says; full seasons of “some” series will drop all at the same time, though. 

Apple TV Plus will also reside inside Apple’s TV app. There, Apple TV Plus will sit next to other video subscriptions such as HBO or Starz. (But not the biggie, Netflix.) 

Apple TV Plus will be available in more than 100 countries and will also be part of Apple’s family sharing feature, which allows you and up to five family members to share a plan. Apple originals will be available in 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision, and most titles also offer Dolby Atmos sound, according to this Apple support page.

We still have a few big questions. We don’t know if Apple’s service will also have a library of licensed shows and movies, though this is looking unlikely. And we haven’t heard anything about whether Apple will package Apple TV Plus with other subscriptions, such as Apple Arcade, Apple News Plus and Apple Music, into a discounted bundle a la Disney Plus being packaged with Hulu and ESPN Plus.  

How much will it cost?

Apple TV Plus will cost $5 a month and offer a seven-day free trial. People who buy a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod Touch or Mac starting Tuesday will qualify for a free subscription for one year. Current Apple device owners aren’t grandfathered in. 

The free-year offer applies to both new and refurbished models, including devices from the iPhone Upgrade Program, and it’s not restricted to any specific sales channel, so it applies to both Apple Store purchases and those at resellers. It will be available in all countries where Apple TV Plus launches.

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By comparison, Disney Plus, the highly anticipated streaming service from the entertainment giant, will launch Nov. 12 for $7 a month — with a large library of movies and shows available immediately. Streaming services based on cable networks, like Showtime or HBO Now, usually range between $9 to $15 a month. Smaller, niche streaming services often are priced at about $5 or a couple bucks. 

And Netflix, the world’s biggest subscription streaming service, prices its most popular plan at $13 a month in the US; it offers other tiers at $9 and $16 a month.

Free trials are the industry standard: Most streaming video services offer introductory free periods for new members. But Apple’s one-year free period for gadget owners is atypically long. But the tactic worked well for Apple Music — Apple launched its music service with an extended, six-month free trial, and Apple Music quickly became the world’s second most popular music service by subscribers behind Spotify. 

When will it launch?

Apple TV Plus will launch Nov. 1 in more than 100 countries and regions, the company said. 

The company said its originals will be subtitled or dubbed in nearly 40 languages, including closed captions for people who are hearing impaired, and Apple TV Plus series and movies will also be available with audio descriptions in eight languages.

What devices will be able to stream it?

Apple’s programming will be available on all Apple devices with the new Apple TV app. 

In addition, Apple TV Plus will presumably be available on some competitor’s devices. Apple’s TV app is available on smart TVs from Samsung, and it’s supposed to become available this year on Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV devices and smart TVs from Sony, LG and Vizio. Subscribers will also be able to watch Apple TV Plus on the web at


Reese Witherspoon (left) and Jennifer Aniston revealed the name of their Apple TV Plus series, The Morning Show, at Apple’s event in March. 

Claudia Cruz/CNET

But the Apple TV app isn’t available on any mobile devices except iPhones or iPads. That means Apple TV Plus subscribers with non-Apple phones will need to stream to their mobiles via the web, rather than in an app. 

What shows and movies will it have?

Apple’s shows run the gamut of drama, comedy, documentary — even undefined deals with a single big star attached. It’s also spending big to get top Hollywood names: Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams and other heavy hitters are on board. CNET keeps a tally of the more than 30 Apple shows known so far, and it has details on every program. 

At launch, Apple TV Plus is confirmed to have nine titles: 

Apple said five additional titles would be added in the months after launch: 

  • Servant, a thriller from Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan
  • Truth Be Told, a mystery drama starring Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul
  • Little America, from the husband-and-wife screenwriting team of Kumail Nanjiani (you may know him as Dinesh on HBO’s Silicon Valley) and Emily V. Gordon
  • The Banker, a true-story movie starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson
  • Hala, a movie produced by Jada Pinkett Smith that Apple picked up at Sundance

But the release plans for other Apple originals remain unclear. We still don’t know when we’ll be seeing shows like: Mythic Quest, a comedy from Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day, who created and starred in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; Amazing Stories, an anthology series from Steven Spielberg; and Central Park, a cartoon musical from the creator of Bob’s Burgers and packed with the voices of stars like Frozen’s Josh Gad and Kristen Bell and Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. and Daveed Diggs.

We also don’t know much about how Apple will continue to accrue films. Apple has a partnership with film studio A24 — known for such movies as Ex Machina, Moonlight and Room. The partnership will include a film called On the Rocks starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones and directed by Sofia Coppola. At the Toronto Film Festival last year, Apple also bought the rights to Wolfwalkers, an animated movie from Cartoon Saloon and Melusine Productions.

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Apple has come under early scrutiny because of reports it’s restricting its creators from making edgy content and aiming to keep all its programming family friendly. Family friendly programming isn’t necessarily a bar to success — Disney built one of the reigning media empires on it — but edgy shows have led other streaming services to awards recognition that helps drive interest. Apple’s strategy could crimp it competitively on that front.

But that won’t stop Apple from trying to score awards, apparently. The company is hiring strategists to help craft campaigns for awards like the Oscars and Emmys, according to a report. 

Who will Apple compete against for your dollars? 

Apple’s forthcoming service would launch at a time when seemingly every major media property is putting out its own streaming option, from DC Universe’s comic-flavored fare to a planned Disney offering, not to mention stalwarts like Netflix. Meanwhile, NBCUniversal and HBO-owner WarnerMedia are both building their own streaming services.

Clearly, an Apple service with $6 billion worth of premium video will compete with the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and others that stream on-demand, high-quality productions. 

Should Apple expand to bundling other digital networks, then Amazon Channels will be its key rival. Apple would also go up against wireless companies such as AT&T’s VRV, a co-op of niche genre streaming services. 

A channel-bundling model would even bring Apple in competition with traditional cable. 

What’s interesting is that Apple’s dive into original programming comes as other giants are ramping up their own streaming-service ambitions. 

Disney will launch a $7-a-month Netflix-like service Nov. 12. Called Disney Plus, the digital service will be a home base for streaming all of Disney’s blockbuster movies, multiple Star Wars and Marvel original series and other programming. Compared with Apple’s nine titles at launch, Disney Plus will have at least 300 movies to stream plus thousands of TV episodes. 

Apple is a gadget giant. Why does it want to become Netflix? 

Haven’t you heard? Everybody wants to be the Netflix of something. (Podcasts! Fitness! Clothes! Games! Even demand management.)

Apple is taking aim at original video because it could be a crucial enticement for people to buy more iPhones and other gadgets. You can’t overstate the importance of the iPhone to Apple. The phone, one of the most popular in the world, still accounts for more than half its sales and was critical to Apple’s march to become the first US company worth $1 trillion. 

But Apple is on a deadline to double its services revenue to $50 billion before 2021. 

Apple quickly established its bona fides in subscriptions businesses with Apple Music. But the content on Apple Music is essentially the same as every other music service. They all have tens of millions of songs. Apple Music has been successful largely because of its presence on the iPhone, already in the pockets of millions of people. It hasn’t been nearly as successful working the other direction, acting as a lure to buy the latest Apple gadget.  

Original video from big-name stars and creators you can’t watch anywhere else, however, could be different. 

Apple clearly has a hunch it will be.

Originally published Sept. 8, 2018, and updated as new information is revealed.


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