The Threat to Apple TV+’s Bundle Bet

The Threat Apple TV+’s Bundle Bet
Cheyne Gateley/Variety Intelligence Platform

Apple has yet to divulge any hard paid-subscriber numbers on Apple TV+ to date, though third-party sources paint the streaming service’s reach as lower than one might expect. 

While Apple has a massive iOS footprint (likely over 900 million global active iPhones), separate reports have pegged the reach of Apple TV+ at anywhere from 10 million (global vs. U.S. figure unclear, Bloomberg) to 34 million (U.S. only, Ampere Analysis) sign-ups.

Data provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform by YouGov also showed that just 6% of U.S. respondents said they used Apple TV+ in July. This figure was 22% for Disney+ and 8% for HBO Max. 

To be fair, these are not ghost-town numbers; they just signal unfulfilled potential. But Apple’s fortunes might be about to change.

The company launched on Monday discounted access to CBS All Access and Showtime OTT to Apple TV+ customers via Apple TV Channels.

Bloomberg also reported last week that Apple is working on a slew of bundles that would group Apple services such as Apple TV+ and Apple Music at a lower monthly price. 

With any bundle offering, Apple TV+ should initially see accelerated uptake. Just look at what the Amazon Prime bundle offering has done for Prime Video. 

But at the same time, the bundle strategy — specifically Apple’s multi-tiered, intra-Apple service strategy internally dubbed “Apple One” — has the potential to further complicate the Apple TV+ consumer pitch, which would be counterproductive to accelerating growth. 

Apple’s bundle strategy could always change, but from what we know now there could eventually be four or more bundle offerings tied to Apple TV+. (At least three Apple One bundles with Apple services were laid out by Bloomberg last Thursday.) 

Sure, it’s easy enough for Apple to say, “If you already have Apple Music, you could subscribe to Apple TV+ for just an extra …” (while potential bundle prices are unclear, they are designed to save consumers $2-$5 per month depending on the tier, per Bloomberg). But multiply that by four in a standard 30-second ad, or even a standard billboard or digital banner, and you risk confusing consumers.  

Those intrigued by any Apple bundle proposition could just do their homework online to see what package works best for them. But should Apple really be banking on large swaths of consumers going out of their way to research and refresh their understanding of its bundles?

This potential confusion could also only well up the sentiment some already feel toward the Apple TV app, which, uniquely among SVODs, houses Apple TV+, access to other SVODs and iTunes content. 

The app is no conundrum, but its layout can still be frustrating for those who just want to access Apple originals (to remedy this, at least one unhappy Apple TV+ user took matters into his own hands). And that explains why U.S. adults indicated at the end of 2019 that Apple TV+ was harder to use than leading SVODs Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney+.

Apple should take a lesson from this market reception and simplify things with the reportedly developing “Apple One” and its CBS All Access-Showtime OTT bundle. 

Offering just one package for a flat rate would significantly clarify things, and yet that might be out of the question since it would be sticking a lot of consumers with Apple services they probably don’t want.

Instead, Apple could be mindful of not adopting a mentality of “the more bundle flexibility and options we offer, the better.” Now that Apple has one SVOD package offering already  out the door, initially rolling out bundles with only its more heavily used services, like Apple Music, and then gradually expanding from there, could be the way to go.