Just before the drama of Epic Games’ PR stunt and ensuing lawsuits and insanity, rumors started to roll that Apple was preparing to release multiple subscription bundles to add value to their current services business. You can find Mark Gurman’s original story at Bloomberg here. That sounds like a smart play for Apple, and one that has been widely predicted by myself and many other Apple fans and tech bloggers over the last three or four years.
The truth is, while Apple has some subscription-based services that perform very well, such as iCloud and Apple Music, others have a more mixed track record. Apple Arcade started off to strong reviews and a lot of interest, but Apple has had trouble keeping enough quality content coming into the system to hold users’ attention, resulting in some subscriber loss. Supposedly Apple has cancelled some game contracts and has re-focused on games that generate more engagement and have potential for continued development, with less investment in one-off concepts.
Then you have News+, which has never been able to gain a lot of traction to to begin with. Last you have TV+, which also started slow and had mediocre to negative early reviews, but did end up with a few good to very good shows. However, it still hasn’t quite justified itself as a separate, must-have video streaming subscription yet. It doesn’t have that breakout hit and there is a general lack of content, since Apple hasn’t made any rights deals to bring in content from the outside. now, TV+ is bolstered by the fact that many users have a free one year subscription thanks to an Apple hardware purchase last year. However, that one year is almost up and Apple still needs to find a way to convert some of those people into paying customers.
A subscription bundle is a great way for Apple to use the more successful services to bolster the ones that haven’t been doing as well. The new bundles, which will reportedly go by the name Apple One, will have several tiered options, starting with the pairing of Apple Music and Apple TV, and going up from there to include everything. Gurman also mentions the rumors that Apple is preparing to launch a paid health and fitness class subscription service, which he says will also be available within Apple One. If handled and priced right, that sounds like a potential hit paired with the Apple Watch.
I’ve been waiting for this subscription bundle news for a few years, but it isn’t all quite what I wanted to hear. First off, Gurman isn’t projecting that Apple will offer a significant volume discount to buyers. He said that Apple One will offer between $2 and $5 off the total monthly prices of the included services separately. That’s great for people like me, who are already locked into two or more of Apple’s subscriptions. An extra $60 of savings per year is fine, and using my Apple Card I can stretch that to $78 per year with 3% Apple Cash back.. However, if Apple plans on these bundle packages spurring on new services and propping up ones that are struggling, such as News+, the discounts will have to be bigger than this.
The other disappointment for me is that, according to Gurman, Apple won’t be including hardware purchase plans or AppleCare+ in Apple One. At least not for now, anyway. I can understand why a bundle package isn’t the best fit with the iPhone Upgrade Program, which is a zero interest loan. However, on the surface it looks like a perfect fit for the company’s new zero interest Apple Card purchase plans. This may not happen this year, but I will be very surprised if this doesn’t either become part of a bundle, or get you a bigger discount on one in the coming years.
Apple One should be available this Fall, likely announced at one of Apple’s upcoming virtual hardware announcement events. But this isn’t the only subscription bundle coming from Apple. In fact, Apple has already released a new one. In a sign that the company understands that it needs to be creative to get more people interested in its services, they released a streaming video package this week that offers a far more compelling discount.
This new offering doesn’t have a fancy name, but it will get you AppleTV+, CBS All-Access and Showtime for $9.99 per month. That is a full 50% off the cost of all three purchased separately every month. All three are also available in Apple’s TV app, making this bundle easy for anyone with an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV to use.
Right now, this new video offering looks more interesting to me than Apple One. Apple partnering outside of itself to make Apple TV+ more compelling to cord-cutters is a smart move, if a little unexpected. One of TV+’s biggest shortcomings is that there just isn’t enough content on the service yet. Pairing it with CBS’ large back catalog of shows and Showtime’s movies and original series is a great way to make it more attractive while Apple’s catalog slowly grows.
Now I can’t help but wonder if other media companies will strike similar bundle deals with Apple, or if CBS got an exclusive for being the first to join with Apple. However this streaming video deal is structured, I don’t expect it to be the last.
What do you think of Apple’s subscription bundle plans? Are you interested? Will they potentially get you to add a subscription that you don’t already have? Let me know what you think in the Comments section below,or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.