By Michelle Castillo
After months of rumors, Apple announced its biggest expansion of its services business on Monday. But it stopped short of announcing critical details that could turn curious fans into actual subscribers.
The company announced several products, including a news and magazine service, a gaming subscription plan and its highly-awaited streaming service. It also unveiled a revamped ApplePay system and credit card, in partnership with Goldman Sachs and MasterCard.
Here’s what we’re still waiting to learn.
1. HOW MUCH WILL APPLE TV+ COST?
Apple’s magazine and news subscription service, Apple News+, will cost $9.99 a month. That much we know. But the company didn’t announce the price for Apple TV+.
If the two subscriptions fit in line with Apple’s other offerings, consumers can assume it will be a flat monthly fee for unlimited access. But things get a bit tricky for Apple TV+. Services like HBO, Amazon Prime Video and CBS All Access have traditionally been additional add-on costs rather than bundled together. We have no inkling whether Apple TV+ subscribers will get these additional services as part of their plan, at a discounted rate or have to pay full price.
2. WHAT DO APPLE'S TV SHOWS LOOK LIKE?
Besides a snazzy montage, Apple didn’t present any footage or trailers from their planned original TV content. The company relied on notable showrunners and actors like Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Oprah, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Anniston to pitch the projects, without having anything to actually show. Sources say the majority of them are still casting and filming.
While having star talent is always a draw, how the shows are actually executed is key. Apple’s forays into the original content space like “Planet of the Apps” haven’t always been well-received. The company did hire household names who are known for delivering hits, and Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg are respected Sony Pictures TV executives with a great track record. The duo were responsible for greenlighting “Breaking Bad,” “Rescue Me” and “Damages,” “The Crown,” and The Blacklist,” among others.
3. HOW MANY EXCLUSIVE SHOWS WILL APPLE TV+ HAVE?
Apple didn’t say how many original shows it was ordering. It will spend about $2 billion this year, according to BTIG. That pales in comparison to Netflix, whose content budget is pegged at $15 billion in 2019 per BMO Capital Markets.
Apple’s service will have the added bonus of folding in content from over 150 streaming apps into its interface, so it will seem like it has more shows than it actually paid for. But for viewers deciding which service to add into their monthly budget, they’ll have to wait and see if there’s enough exclusive content in Apple TV+ to deserve their dollars, particularly when many potential customers already subscribe to Netflix, Hulu and the like. Plus, there’s new companies that will be unveiling their plans in the near future, including Disney and WarnerMedia.
4. WILL CUSTOMERS WHO DON'T SUBSCRIBE TO APPLE TV+ BE ABLE TO BUY SHOWS A LA CARTE?
Companies like HBO allow non-subscribers to buy episodes or seasons of its shows without subscribing to its service. Whether Apple will allow viewers to do the same remains to be seen. It already has a built-in platform to handle these transactions via iTunes.
5. HOW MUCH WILL APPLE ARCADE COST?
We know Apple Arcade will feature over 100 new and exclusive games, and games will be available for mobile, desktop and living room gamers. Creators Hironobu Sakaguchi, Ken Wong, Will Wright will have titles in the service, but we don't have a full list. Apple seemed to indicate it was mostly indie developers who will be available, but again…we have no price details.