A TV battle for your heart, mind and money begins shortly with the arrival of AppleTV+ on Friday, Nov. 1 and Disney+ on Nov. 12. But before we get to all that, let's first pause to reflect on the breathtaking enormity of what is about to happen.
Never before has so much TV arrived in such quantity: Hundreds of hours! Hours of new shows immediately! Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carrell, Reese Witherspoon!
But this TV multitude also poses questions, both practical and existential. Of the latter, how much TV is too much TV? We're about to find out, and how. The practical questions essentially ask themselves. Will viewers — you — want to spend an extra five or six bucks a month for all this? And if you do, does that mean you'll cancel your Netflix subscription, making this impending battle a sort of high-stakes zero sum game that could put the world's largest streaming service at risk? How about Amazon Prime and Hulu? With many millions of subscribers, they're not exactly chicken feed either.
So let's get to some answers. Beginning with:
How much will these cost?
AppleTV+ is $4.99 a month, but it comes free for a year for anyone who buys a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod Touch. This so-called "price point" and hook are critical because they hint at Apple's overall strategy — to make this much cheaper than its rivals, and to use it to get people to buy iPhones. After all, that's why Apple is getting into a high-risk business it knows almost nothing about — to resuscitate, or compensate, for flagging iPhone sales. Meanwhile, Disney+ is $6.99 a month, or $69.99 a year. By contrast, that seems like the better deal because Disney+ — not AppleTV+ — will come with those thousands of hours, and 600-plus episodes of "The Simpsons" too. Disney+ also appeared to borrow a move from Apple: Verizon will give a year of Disney+ free to all wireless customers on unlimited-data plans.
How will you see the services and their new shows?
AppleTV+ will be available on the Apple TV app on any Apple device, and some Samsung smart TV models. Disney+ will also be (available) on Apple TV, and via phone and tablet apps; other platforms will include Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Amazon Fire. Per reports, Disney+ will also be on Roku and PlayStation 4. Simply put, if you have a smartphone, tablet, laptop or smart TV, either of these new services should be easily available.
What's on Disney+?
Perhaps best to answer that with another question: What is not? The door on the Disney "vault" will swing wide open for Disney+, which will include an estimated 7,500 TV episodes from Disney's vast TV library dating back over half a century, and about 100 recent movies and 400 older ones. There'll be nine new series and those will be rolled out at launch and later in the month.
There is so much at launch, in fact, that Disney released a three hour and 17 minute-long video that previewed much of what the new service will have, in 15 second snippets. Most significantly, Disney launches with the "Star Wars" franchise — the classic movies and animated shows, and much else, along with a new show, "The Mandalorian," that is the first-ever live action series set in the "Star Wars" universe.
And still, this is just the beginning. Disney clawed back the Marvel franchise from Netflix, which means more new series, more new movies, from that particularly commodious "universe" too.
Oh, and "The Simpsons." Disney recently purchased Twentieth Century Fox to avail itself of that vault, so if you want to see "Simpsons" reruns, you'll need a Disney+ subscription. That could be one of the biggest hooks of all.
And on AppleTV+?
If you believe the promotional tag, there will be "stories to believe in!" That masks the fact that there just won't be a lot of those stories, at least at the outset. Apple is beginning at the beginning — no "vault," no history that reaches back 80 years, to a time when Walt Disney himself was drawing storyboards for iconic cartoons. There will be nine new series arriving at launch and over the rest of the month; another five are coming in the months ahead.
The big draw is clearly "The Morning Show," with Aniston, Carrell and Witherspoon. There's also a post-apocalyptic thriller, "See," with Jason Momoa ("Game of Thrones, ''Aquaman"). The Comedy "Dickinson" — which was partly filmed in Old Bethpage Village Restoration — stars Hailee Steinfeld as the poet Emily Dickinson.
Other November launches include a space thriller ("For All Mankind"); a space animated comedy ("Snoopy in Space"); a wildlife documentary on elephants ("The Elephant Queen"); a series from Sesame Workshop ("Helpsters"); a reboot of the '90s kids mystery series, "Ghostwriter"; an M. Night Shyamalan thriller ("Servant") about a couple coping with the loss of a baby; and "Truth Be Told," based on the novel "Are You Sleeping," about a true crime podcaster who looks into the case of a convicted serial killer, starring Octavia Spencer and "Breaking Bad's" Aaron Paul.
What about "The Morning Show?"
While Disney+ has the volume (and "Star Wars"), Apple+ has the one show that has so far gathered almost all the prelaunch publicity, thanks to those big stars attached. "Morning" appeared to get off to a rocky start — early scripts were torn up and rewritten, which is almost never a good sign. But in this instance, it was good: Producers were simply unwrapping the gift that had been handed them, specifically the firing of Matt Lauer from "Today" in 2017. Initially "Morning" was to be a dramedy about the morning show wars, but with Lauer's firing, it got both a storyline, and hot-button topic (#MeToo). "Morning" opens with the firing of Carell's character, who is loosely based on Lauer, while his co-host (Aniston) struggles how to convey the news to viewers while also how to exploit it. Reviews are embargoed until Oct. 28, but it's hardly a spoiler to tell you that — based on what I've seen so far — "Morning" looks like a potential winner.
Who will be the winner?
According to most industry observers, Netflix shouldn't be impacted much, at least immediately. Disney expects between 60 million and 90 million subscribers by the end of 2024, which seems bullish until you realize Netflix already has 151 million around the world. The challenge for Netflix is significant, however. Netflix's highflying stock needs to demonstrate subscriber growth, but with Apple+, Disney+ and HBO Max (arriving next year), that will be harder to do.
What does all this mean for you? Maybe some good news: Netflix will be under pressure to lower its own costs ($16 per month for the premium service alone). Could all this mean, then, that you — the subscriber — could ultimately "win?" Maybe that too. Let's hope anyway.