Apple raised the price of its Apple TV+ streaming service today. Not only has the price increase effectively doubled the cost of a subscription in a year, but it also now raises the question of whether an Apple TV+ ‘with ads’ plan is coming soon? That, however, is a difficult question to answer.
The fact that Apple has increased the price of its video subscription service is not really a surprise. Even though the last (and technically first) price increase only hit in October of last year, almost every other streaming service has increased in price in 2023. This trend has also come at the same time as another – the rise of the ‘with ads’ tier.
In terms of Apple TV+, the service has always been an ad-free subscription service. What’s more, considering the cost was only $6.99 a month up until today, it was one of the better and cheaper ad-free plans around. However, that has now changed following the latest price increase.
Is an ad-supported Apple TV+ tier coming?
At $9.99 a month, Apple TV+ is now very much in line with the cost of ad-free plans offered by many other streaming services, and this definitely opens the door to the suggestion that an ad-supported plan might be on the way. Whether priced at $4.99 or $6.99 a month, an ad-supported tier would ensure Apple doesn’t alienate any homes that find the new monthly rate to be too high.
In this sense, it seems almost guaranteed that an Apple TV+ with ads plan is on the horizon.
That said, almost guaranteed is not the same as guaranteed, and if there is a company that might opt to buck the ad-supported trend, it would be Apple.
Unlike the Googles and Facebooks of this world, Apple is far less reliant on advertising revenue, and this is something that Apple has often used as a marketing tactic. By limiting the way apps track behavior and focusing more on privacy, Apple has looked to position itself as the opposite of the data-and-ad-hungry companies of the tech world.
Due to this, an ad-supported plan might somewhere interfere with what, by all accounts, appears to have been a successful anti-data stance. After all, ads mostly work by targeting users and this is one of the reasons why streaming services have made subtle but important changes to their services in recent times.
For example, if you’ve recently found a streaming service asking you for additional profile information, such as birthdate and gender, you can be sure that’s due to the availability of an ad-supported plan, and the service’s attempt to deliver hyper-relevant ads.
Another issue standing in the way of an Apple TV+ with ads plan is Apple’s emphasis on the user experience. Since launch, Apple TV+ has been a streaming service that’s focused on quality over quantity, often to its subscriber detriment. While other services, shoutout to Max, seem intent on cramming their libraries with as much content as possible, Apple has maintained an approach where it offers a smaller, but consistently high quality catalog of content.
While ads won’t necessarily affect the quality of programming, it will certainly impact on the quality of the user experience. Yes, ads will offer a cheaper option for consumers, but how often has Apple really cared about competing at the cheaper end of the spectrum?
Although Apple has dabbled with lowering the price of its iPhone lineup with the iPhone mini (now discontinued) and the iPhone SE, cheaper isn’t something often associated with Apple. The Apple TV player is a great case in point considering it is one of the more extensive streaming players around and always has been. In fact, this was a point we made back in 2022 when rumors of a ‘cheaper Apple TV player’ first started circulating.
A point which was backed up with the launch of the newest Apple TV 4K Wi-Fi only player. At $129, the 2022 Apple TV Player is certainly cheaper than past models, but it is still very, very far from being considered cheap.
So is an ad-supported Apple TV+ tier coming or not?
In reality, only Apple knows. While the latest price increase seemingly opens up the option to offer an ad–supported plan, Apple is a company that tends to operate on its own tangent and that may mean Apple forgoes following the same ‘with ads’ path other streaming services are traveling. Not to mention, Apple currently uses the lack of ads as a selling point. According to Apple, “Apple Originals are always commercial-free.”
At the same time, back in February of this year, The Information was the first to report on how Apple had hired an ad executive to help build out its video ad business. If giants like Netflix, who have operated for years as ad-free businesses, have embraced a ‘with ads’ strategy, why wouldn’t Apple? Especially considering, as Bloomberg reported last year, ads have become an increasingly important area for Apple, even managing to sneak their way onto the iPhone.
Interestingly, a more recent report from Bloomberg explained that Apple is currently working on a new Apple TV app that’s designed to offer a more integrated video experience. The new app is expected to launch in December as part of a future tvOS update.
If Apple is currently planning to follow up the latest price increase with the launch of an ad-supported plan, the relaunch of the Apple TV app could offer a good opportunity to introduce its ‘with ads’ plan.