What is Apple TV+? Everything you need to know about Apple’s new streaming subscription service

Apple is joining Disney+ in planning to launch a streaming TV service in 2019 – but what will it have that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video doesn't?

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces Apple tv+ during a launch event at Apple headquarters on March 25, 2019, in Cupertino, California (Getty)

Apple has revealed the first official details for its new TV subscription service, Apple TV+.

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The company unveiled its plans with help from a series of special guest stars on stage on Monday 25th March 2019.

The new service will feature original TV series available to stream or download, as well as bundled subscriptions to a host of other broadcasters and platforms.

The service will launch in Autumn 2019 in over 100 different countries. The timing could see it go head to head with the new streaming service from Disney, also confusingly titled Disney+.

Apple TV Plus key details

Release date: Autumn 2019

Cost: TBC

How can I watch? On all Apple mobile devices and computers, as well as Smart TVs from providers such as Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio

Apple has a string of shows in the pipeline, with various A-listers like Oprah Winfrey and Big Little Lies’ Reese Witherspoon as well as British talent including Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight already signed up.

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have dominated the streaming TV market – but could that be about to change?

Read on to discover more about Apple’s plans for Apple TV+.


What is Apple TV+?

Apple’s streaming service Apple TV+ will, like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, offer original movie and TV content which will be available exclusively to subscribers. See below more details about specific shows.

This is the next logical step following Apple’s first foray into original programming, releasing brand new content like Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps on Apple Music – although their latest plans are far more ambitious in scope.

“We’re honoured that the absolute best lineup of storytellers in the world — both in front of and behind the camera — are coming to Apple TV+,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, during the service’s launch on Monday 25th March.

The stars and creators behind Apple TV+'s original series. Seated (L to R): Ron Cephas Jones, Rob McElhenney, Brooklynn Prince, Michelle Dockery, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Garner and Josh Gad.Standing (L to R): Brian Grazer, Jane Krakowski, Ewan McGregor, Jada Pinkett Smith, Joel Kinnaman, M. Night Shyamalan, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Momoa, Tim Cook, Hailee Steinfeld, Octavia Spencer, Jon M. Chu, Alfre Woodard, Rashida Jones, Kumail Nanjiani, Aaron Paul, Emily V. Gordon, Tim Robbins, Sara Bareilles, Aly Raisman and Leslie Odom, Jr. (Photographer: Art Streiber/courtesy of Apple)
The stars and creators behind Apple TV+’s original series. Seated (L to R): Ron Cephas Jones, Rob McElhenney, Brooklynn Prince, Michelle Dockery, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Garner and Josh Gad. Standing (L to R): Brian Grazer, Jane Krakowski, Ewan McGregor, Jada Pinkett Smith, Joel Kinnaman, M. Night Shyamalan, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Momoa, Tim Cook, Hailee Steinfeld, Octavia Spencer, Jon M. Chu, Alfre Woodard, Rashida Jones, Kumail Nanjiani, Aaron Paul, Emily V. Gordon, Tim Robbins, Sara Bareilles, Aly Raisman and Leslie Odom, Jr. (Photographer: Art Streiber/courtesy of Apple)

Original content however is only part of the picture. Apple is also upgrading its Apple TV app to offer a richer viewing experience, along with options to subscribe to even more content from external broadcasters.

Apple has partnered with networks including HBO, Showtime and Starz, aiming to act as a gateway to their content via a new service known as Apple TV Channels. This will be available from May 2019, and appears to be a similar service to that already offered by Amazon as part of its Amazon Channels programme.

It is not currently clear which broadcasters will be available in which countries. In the UK for example, Sky has existing content and co-production deals with both HBO and Showtime.

Netflix however has already confirmed that it will not participate in this ‘bundle’ offer: chief executive Reed Hastings said in March that Netflix “has chosen not to integrate with [Apple’s] service.”

Apple TV+ will be available on iPhones, iPads, Apple’s set-top box and Apple computers. However, the service will also be available via a Smart TV app from companies including Samsung, LG, Sony and Vizio.

It will also be available via ‘streaming sticks’ such as Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, small devices that plug into TVs and connect to the internet.

There is no word yet on whether it will be offered on other non-Apple mobile devices.

Doesn’t Apple already have a TV app?

(Getty)
(Getty)

Yes, although Apple TV is set to be much more developed once the new service kicks in, from personalised recommendations to all that new original content.

However, just like the existing app, the new Apple TV will allow users to access content from over 150 different streaming apps – including Amazon Prime Video – as well as pay-TV services on one landing page, along with rentals and purchases from iTunes.

Apple TV has been around in one form or another since as far back as 2006, but Apple’s plans to enter the movie and TV streaming marketplace is set to be a significant step up for the company.

What new shows and movies have been announced?

Apple has already signed various deals with studios, including independent film studio A24 and the Oprah Winfrey Network.

A report in the New York Times ahead of an Apple event on 25th March suggested that around 11 TV series have either completed filming or are nearing the end of production.

This is expected to be the first wave of original shows for the new streaming service. Some of the projects in the pipeline include:

  • Oprah Winfrey will present two documentaries and a live stream book club with Apple, just part of her multi-year content deal with the company. The first doc, called Toxic Labor, will explore sexual exploitation in the workplace. The other will investigate mental health issues around the world. Oprah also confirmed that she aims to create “the biggest, the most vibrant, the most stimulating book club on the planet” via the new streaming service
  • a scripted drama called The Morning Show, led by Friends star Jennifer Aniston and Big Little Lies’ Reese Witherspoon. Two seasons have reportedly been commissioned, with a cast also including the likes of Steve Carrell and Mark Duplass. It will reportedly go behind the scenes on a morning TV show, and will explore “the power dynamics between men and women” in the workplace
  • a revived Steven Spielberg anthology series called Amazing Stories. 
  • A mystery thriller starring Oscar winner Octavia Spencer called Are You Sleeping?
  • a space drama with Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore, reportedly titled For All Mankind
  • a TV thriller from Glass and Unbreakable creator M Night Shyamalan
  • A comedy series from the stars and producers of hit sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Little America, an anthology series led by The American Office producer Lee Eisenberg and the writers of The Big Sick, Kumal Nanjiani and Emily V Gordon
  • Little Voice, a series from Star Wars director JJ Abrams and singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. The series will explore the story of one woman finding her voice through music
  • a children’s TV series from Sesame Workshop, the maker of Sesame Street
  • a TV series from La La Land and Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle
  • An adaptation of Terry Gilliam’s 1981 film Time Bandits
  • an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s science fiction novel Foundation.

The service is also working with Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight on a new sci-fi series called See, about a future where all humans are blind apart from a single set of twins. The show stars Aquaman’s Jason Momoa and is directed by The Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence.

This is just a taster of some of the content Apple has been linked to, with much more to follow.

When will Apple’s streaming service launch?

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 22: In this photo illustration, the logos of the IGTV, Instagram, maps.me, Youtube and Snapchat applications are displayed on the screen of an Apple iPhone on June 22, 2018 in Paris, France. Instagram has launched Wednesday IGTV, a new application allowing users to publish videos in excess of 60 seconds today allowed. With one billion users now, Instagram is taking advantage of its success with a young audience eager to share photos and videos, to compete with the YouTube video platform. (Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Apple TV+ will launch in over 100 countries in Autumn 2019. The upgraded TV app meanwhile will be available from May 2019.

Will Apple’s streaming service be available in the UK?

Apple did not specify which 100 countries would have access to the new service, although with the existing Apple TV already available in the UK it is likely that the UK will be one of those markets.

It is expected that all of Apple’s original shows will be availably globally, just like rivals such as Netflix.

However, when it comes to the subscription channels available to purchase through Apple TV, the offering is less clear.

Apple touted companies such as HBO, Showtime and Hulu as part of its offering via Apple TV Channels, but whether they will be available in the UK has not been confirmed.

Hulu currently does not have a presence at all in the UK, while both HBO and Showtime have exclusive content and co-production deals with Sky.

Isn’t Apple TV+ just like Netflix?

Both companies, it is true, are banking hard on attracting subscribers through original content – although Netflix is much further down the road when it comes to that.

However, Apple’s announcement show serious intent in what is becoming an increasingly crowded streaming TV marketplace.

Apple TV+ will not, at least according to the speech made by CEO Tim Cook, offer licensed content alongside its original shows. Instead, users can either pay for a subscription to a third party such as HBO or Showtime, or buy or rent from iTunes as usual.

Apple TV+ at launch apparently will not be offered to users of Android phones or non-Apple laptops and computers. Netflix by contrast is available on a huge variety of devices and platforms.

Netflix has previously been available on Apple TV, but it appears that that could change when the Apple app is updated in May.

How much will Apple’s TV service cost?

It’s not clear yet how much the service will cost, and whether or not it will be accessible to already-existing iOS and Apple TV subscribers, or require a separate account.

How do I sign up for Apple’s streaming service?

With the service yet to launch, it is unclear yet exactly how the subscription will operate, although existing Apple users will likely be able to access content via their iCloud account. This page will be updated with more information regularly.


Apple’s ‘It’s Show Time’ event – key announcements

Live updates from Apple’s TV streaming service announcement on Monday 25th March 2019 from 5pm GMT

5.03pm: Tim Cook confirms that this Apple Event will be all about “world class services” – presumably including a TV subscription service…

5.06pm: Apple News is the first service mentioned by Tim Cook. “With over 5 billion articles read each month, Apple News is now the number one news app,” he says, “an essential daily destination for millions of people.”

5.11pm: Magazines will form a key part of ‘Apple News +’. The addition will take Apple News to “a whole new level” says Cook.

5.20pm: Apple News + will also include “premium digital editions” as well as magazines and US newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal.

5.23pm: Apple News + will launch in the UK later in 2019.

5.34pm: Still waiting on the big announcement (in TV terms of course). Currently Apple execs discussing Apple’s new credit card service on Apple Pay.

5.40pm “Now let’s turn our attention to the App Store,” says Tim Cook. Still no TV announcement, but we’re now on to gaming.

5.45pm Apple launches its own gaming subscription service: Apple Arcade. Apple Arcade is “the world’s first games subscription service for mobile, desktop and living room” according to the keynote address.

5.56pm And we’re finally on to TV. The all-new, redesigned TV app aims to bundle a number of different subscriptions into one place, on demand and ad-free.

In the US these subscriptions include the likes of Showtime and HBO, but “we’ll be adding even more around the world” according to the address.

5.58pm Amazon Prime Video and Hulu will both available in the new Apple TV service – at least in the US. It’s not clear yet what services will be available when it launches in the UK.

6pm Apple TV will also continue to include the usual links to iTunes rentals and purchases. There will also be a specific section devoted to kids’ content.

6.02pm Apple TV will be available on iPhone, iPad, the Apple TV box… and Smart TVs. Samsung, LG and Sony will all feature the Apple TV app.

The service will also be available on ‘mini’ boxes such as the Roku and Amazon Fire TV Stick.

6.07pm Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams feature in the introduction video for Apple’s new streaming service Apple TV +.

6.08pm Octavia Spencer, M Night Shyamalan, Reese Witherspoon and Ron Howard also feature in the Apple TV + promo.

6.13pm Director Steven Spielberg is now on stage talking about his original TV series for Apple, Amazing Stories.

6.16pm Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carrell are now all on stage talking about their new show, The Morning Show. Will reveal what goes on behind the scenes on a morning news show, written by Kerry Ehrin.

6.19pm Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard are now on stage, talking about their new TV series See, written by the creator of Peaky Blinders, Steven Knight.

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6.39pm Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon and more help launch Apple’s new streaming service Apple TV +