October 19, 2021

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Ted Lasso won a pile of Emmys. So WTF actually is Apple TV Plus?

A hand holds a phone with the white Apple TV Plus logo on a black screen

Apple TV Plus launched in late 2019 with just nine titles to watch. It has widened its catalog to more than five dozen. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Ted Lasso, Apple TV Plus‘ breakout comedy series, hauled in seven Emmys for the Apple streaming service Sunday, including best comedy series. Its star, Jason Sudeikis, won the comedic lead actor category, and supporting actors Hannah Waddingham and Brett Goldstein took home statues, too — the first Emmys for all three performers. But Apple TV Plus is more obscure than those other streaming companies basking in the Emmy spotlight Sunday, like Netflix and HBO Max.  Apple’s subscription video service aims to compete with the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max, but it’s a little different from most of the services you know. For one, Apple TV Plus doesn’t have its own dedicated app (or channel). Its shows live inside the Apple TV app. (And the Apple TV app is different from the Apple TV streaming device. Yeah, it’s confusing.) 

 Apple TV Plus also lacks a deep library of licensed shows and movies to dive into. The service has original programming almost exclusively, with an emphasis on big-budget, prestige shows. Its lineup of high-end originals has grown to more than five dozen titles since it launched almost two years ago, including Ted Lasso, Jason Momoa’s dystopian fantasy See, and The Morning Show, its big-budget drama series starring A-listers Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon as anchors on a morning broadcast-news show. Still, most other subscription streaming services have thousands of hours of programming to watch.

Here are the main things to know Apple TV Plus. 

How do I watch Ted Lasso and everything else on Apple TV Plus? 

Every Apple TV Plus title, including Ted Lasso, is available to all subscribers. Apple TV Plus only has a single $5-a-month tier, and it unlocks the full catalog of original programming. 

But unlike Netflix and other subscription streaming services, Apple TV Plus doesn’t have its own dedicated app. Apple TV Plus programming resides inside Apple’s TV app, which overall serves as a hub to watch programming from other video subscriptions and to rent or buy movies and shows a la carte. That can be a little confusing, but the TV app has a tab dedicated just to Apple TV Plus originals, so you can find all the originals in one place without other kinds of stuff that requires separate payments. 

Apple’s TV app (and, by extension, Apple TV Plus) is available on: 

  • Apple devices that can stream video including iPhone, iPad, Apple TV streaming boxes, iPod Touch and Macs
  • Roku
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Android TV
  • Google TV
  • Xbox
  • PlayStation
  • Samsung smart TVs
  • LG smart TVs
  • Vizio smart TVs
  • Sony smart TVs

Apple TV Plus is also available to watch on the web at tv.apple.com.

Android users (and anybody with anything other than an iPhone and iPad), take note…

If you want to watch on an Android phone, or any mobile device besides an iPhone or iPad, you’ll have to watch in a web browser. Apple’s TV app isn’t available on any mobile devices except the ones the Apple makes itself.

How much does Apple TV Plus cost?

Apple TV Plus costs $5 a month, or $50 for an annual subscription. By comparison, Disney Plus is $8 a month, with a library of movies and shows that dwarfs Apples. And Netflix, the world’s biggest subscription streaming service that also won the most Emmys of any company Sunday, prices its most popular plan at $13 a month in the US; it offers other tiers at $9 and $16 a month.

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


Art Streiber/Apple

Apple is also including Apple TV Plus with its Apple Music student-discount plan, now offering both streaming services in the $5-a-month deal at no extra cost.

Apple TV Plus is also available as part of a discount bundle of services called Apple One. Apple One ranges in price from $15 to $30 a month for different combinations of subscriptions. Apple TV Plus is included in all tiers of Apple One. Depending on the tier, Apple One bundles may also include Apple Music, Apple Arcade, Apple News Plus, storage service iCloud and the guided-workout service Apple Fitness Plus. (Disney Plus had offered something similar by packaging that service with both Hulu and ESPN Plus.) 

Does Apple TV Plus offer a free trial? 

Apple TV Plus offers a seven-day free trial standard for any new subscriber. 

As of July 1, Apple TV Plus offers an extended, three-month free trial to people who buy an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod Touch or Mac. This extended free trial 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’s available in all countries where Apple TV Plus is operating. 

Back when Apple TV Plus launched in November 2019, the company offered an extended, one-year free trial for anyone who bought a qualifying Apple gadget. Even though Apple TV Plus is among the cheapest subscription streaming services of its kind, the generous promotion compensated for its lightweight library, which had only nine total titles to watch at the beginning. 

Then as Apple TV Plus slowly worked to widen its catalog of original programming, Apple kept extending those yearlong free trials past their expirations multiple times. Many subscribers had never paid for the service as long as it existed up through July 1. One analyst estimated that 62% of Apple TV Plus accounts were freeloading with some sort of promotion. 

But that changed in July. Apple began charging anyone who had been on a free trial longer than a year starting July 1, and any new subscriber who wants to unlock an extended free trial with an Apple gadget purchase gets only three months free now, not an entire year. 

Free trials were long the industry standard, but they are becoming more rare. Services like Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max and Peacock have all phased out their standard free trials for new members. And Apple’s one-year free period for gadget owners was atypically long. 

When is Ted Lasso’s second season finale? 

Ted Lasso’s second season — now the midst of being released weekly, one episode at a time — is expected to wrap up with a finale available at midnight ET on Oct. 8, which is 9 p.m. PT on Oct. 7. 

The premiere of the latest Ted Lasso season became available to stream on Apple TV Plus on July 23, and the show is expected to have 12 episodes. Three episodes remain to be released in this season. 

When do new episodes and movies hit Apple TV Plus? 

New episodes and films become available to stream on Apple TV Plus at midnight ET at the very start of the day they’re scheduled to come out. That means new titles are actually available at 9 p.m. PT the night before their published release date. 

So, for example, the premiere of The Morning Show’s second season became available to stream at midnight ET Friday, which was 9 p.m. PT Thursday. 

The vast majority of Apple TV Plus titles are released like this, at midnight Fridays ET / 9 p.m. Thursdays PT, so the latest episodes of See, Ted Lasso and almost everything else are first available to stream then too. There are some exceptions — The Problem With John Stewart will premiere at midnight ET on a Thursday (that is, late Wednesday PT), for example. 

What other big shows and movies are coming? 

Apple has a steady drumbeat of new programming in the pipeline. Generally, most Apple TV Plus series release their episodes one at a time every week: 

  • Sept. 24 — Foundation, a sci-fi series adapted from Isaac Asimov’s best-selling novels.
  • Sept. 24 — Wolfboy and the Everything Factory, an animated series about an imaginative boy who discovers a realm at the center of the earth, which will release all 10 episodes at once.
  • Sept. 30 — The Problem With Jon Stewart, a current-affairs series from the award-winning host that takes deep dives into big issues.
  • Oct. 8 — Acapulco, a bilingual comedy series starring Eugenio Derbez about a 20-something man (not Derbez) whose dream comes true when he’s hired as a cabana boy at the hottest resort in Acapulco.
  • Oct. 8 — Get Rolling With Otis, an animated series based on the book series about Otis the Tractor and his friends on Long Hill Dairy Farm.
  • Oct. 15 — The Velvet Underground, a documentary by director Todd Haynes about the iconic rock band.
  • Oct. 15 — Puppy Place, a live-action family series based on a best-selling book series about the adventures of dog-loving siblings who foster puppies. 
  • Oct. 22 — Invasion, a sci-fi series that follows an alien invasion through different perspectives around the world, which will release two episodes at its premiere followed by a single episode weekly.
  • Oct. 29 — Swagger, a drama series from Kevin Durant inspired by the NBA superstar’s experiences in youth basketball, exploring the lives of players, their families and coaches.
  • Nov. 5 — Finch, a post-apocalyptic film starring Tom Hanks about a robotics engineer’s quest to create a companion for his beloved dog after he’s gone.
  • Nov. 5 — Dickinson (season three), a comedy based loosely on the life of poet Emily Dickinson, with this season taking place in the midst of the American Civil War.
  • Nov. 12 — The Shrink Next Door, a limited series starring Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell and Kathryn Hahn about a psychiatrist to the stars and his longtime patient, inspired by true events. 
  • Dec. 17 — Swan Song, a film starring Mahershala Ali set in the near future about a father diagnosed with a terminal illness who is presented with an option to shield his family from grief.

What other shows and movies does 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. Apple also struck an exclusive deal with Alfonso Cuarón for the famed director’s first television projects. 

Since Apple TV Plus resides in Apple’s TV app, you can check out the selection there before signing up. You can also browse the catalog through third-party services like Reelgood. 

Apple’s press site also rounds up all Apple TV Plus original titles, including some that have been announced but aren’t released yet. 

Apple planned to give theater runs to some of its films before streaming them on Apple TV Plus, but the coronavirus pandemic has stifled those plans for the time being. 

How do I sign up? 

Apple TV Plus is associated with Apple ID, which is the same log-in you’d use for iCloud or downloading apps from its App Store. If you don’t already have an Apple ID, you can create one here

If you already have Apple’s TV app on an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV, you simply need to open the app and navigate to any of the places where Apple is prominently promoting its original shows. On newly purchased iPhones, for example, the app already knows you’ve purchased a new gadget to qualify for the deal. Whether you’re starting Apple TV Plus with a year free or just the standard one-week trial, the shows start playing in the app after a few taps.

You can also sign up and watch online with a web browser at the Apple TV Plus site

What devices can stream Apple TV Plus?

Apple’s programming is available on all its devices with the Apple TV app. 

03-reese-witherspoon-jennifer-anniston-for-apple-tv-plus-at-apple-event

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


Claudia Cruz/CNET

In addition, Apple TV Plus is available on some competitors’ devices. Apple’s TV app is available on Roku and Fire TV, two of the most widely used streaming devices in the US, and for smart TVs from Samsung and LG. You can watch it on Sony and Vizio smart TVs via AirPlay, and the TV app should be available for those smart TVs now. 

Apple widened support for Apple TV Plus to game consoles in the fall. In October, Sony said its Playstation 5 would support Apple TV Plus at launch. A couple of weeks later, Microsoft said Apple TV Plus would be supported on the Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.

Subscribers will also be able to watch Apple TV Plus on the web at tv.apple.com.

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 — meaning, the huge population of people with Android phones — need to stream to their mobiles via the web, rather than in an app. 

How do I cancel Apple TV Plus?

The simplest way for you to cancel Apple TV Plus, regardless of how you signed up or what device you’re using, is to sign in with your account’s Apple ID at tv.apple.com. Click or tap the small circular account icon in the upper right corner and select Settings. Then scroll down to Subscriptions and, finally, tap the link to Manage. From there, you can choose to cancel your subscription. 

How do I check the time left in my free trial?

You can check the remaining time of your free trial at the same Settings page described above, under the Subscriptions section. CNET also has an article explaining other ways to find the expiration date of your free trial on your iPhone or your Apple TV streaming box. 

How does Apple TV Plus compare with Netflix, Disney Plus and other subscription video services? 

Apple TV Plus is a subscription streaming service to watch the company’s original series and movies exclusively. Like Netflix, it doesn’t have ads. 

Unlike Netflix, it doesn’t have a big library of licensed shows or movies, nor will it release full seasons of its shows all at once in a binge-able bunch (for the most part). Most Apple TV Plus series premiere a small cluster of episodes, often three, followed by one new episode every week. Full seasons of some series drop all at the same time, though. 

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

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

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

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.


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