Part of what used to be great about the Apple TV is that — unlike an Amazon Fire TV, for instance — Apple didn’t really have specific content it was trying to push on you. Sure, it might suggest that you rent or buy a movie from iTunes instead of from Amazon; and it would be safe to assume it might only recommend content that was available on iTunes, but practically that included everything.
Amazon, on the other hand, since they had gotten into the original content market, would be incentivized to give priority to their TV shows over others. Is my Amazon Fire TV recommending Sneaky Pete to me because it’s similar to stuff I watch, or because they stand to gain from it?
When Apple TV+ was announced, I worried that Apple’s having a stake in what specific content I watch would taint the Apple TV experience.
Boy, has it.
Below is a full view of the contents of the macOS TV app. The TV app on the Apple TV streaming box is roughly identical.
Blocks highlighted in magenta are Apple TV+ or Apple-owned content. Blocks highlighted in blue are third-party content that requires purchases or subscriptions from Apple.
The top hero carousel, shown here displaying Killers of the Flower Moon, has twenty-five slides in it. The first nineteen are for Apple TV+ content.
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What exacerbates matters is that much of this content relies on a subscription rather than a one-time purchase. If Apple had gotten strictly into the movie industry, for instance, and offered their movies as purchases rather than via a forever subscription, I think this incursion wouldn’t have been quite so aggressive and insidious. Subscriptions, or “services,” are where all the money in tech is now. Get the customer in the door, and keep them paying. Streaming now makes up the vast majority of digital music revenue, as is evident in the languishing of the iTunes app and ecosystem.
Subscriptions are making Apple so much money that they have resorted to user-hostile behaviors like what has happened to their TV app.
Say what you want about Apple — their products are too expensive, they nickel-and-dime you on accessories, everything is harder to repair — but it used to be that once you owned whatever product it was that they were selling, the experience of using it was unparalleled in user-friendliness and delight.
This is no longer the case. Splurge at the Apple Store, open the box at home, turn the thing on, and you will only be pestered by relentless solicitations.