Netflix vs. Apple TV+: An early comparison of the streaming rivals

The streaming landscape is getting crowded these days, with multiple streaming services to choose from now from all sorts of players, and many more coming soon. With Apple planning to launch its own Apple TV+ platform later this year, the service will have a steep hill to climb if it wants to challenge the current streaming king, Netflix. So how do they compare?

Very few details about Apple TV+ are known at this point, but with Apple and its millions of devices supporting it, there’s a lot of potential there. Here’s everything we know about how Apple TV+ stacks up to Netflix at this very early stage, with more to come as Apple’s new streamer ramps up.

Content

Apple isn’t expected to have the sheer volume of content at launch that Netflix has accumulated, with the platform seemingly focused on quality over quantity.

One area in which Apple TV+ seems intent on giving Netflix serious competition is with an impressive slate of prestige programming — and massive stars. Apple has a long list of movie and TV projects in the works from some of Hollywood’s top creative minds and biggest talents, including an alternate-history drama from Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ronald D. Moore, a sci-fi anthology series from Steven Spielberg, a musical drama from J.J. Abrams, and a dramedy about a morning talk show featuring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell, among other projects.

In order to get in the game, Apple is spending big money on its projects, too, with its fantasy drama See — which stars Jason Momoa and is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the few remaining humans on Earth have been rendered blind — reportedly costing around $15 million per episode.

what is apple tv plus jason momoa and alfre woodard

Netflix has already found success in prestige, award-friendly fare. Last year’s Roma from director Alfonso Cuarón was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won in three categories, including the prestigious Oscar for “Best Achievement in Directing.” Many of the streaming service’s TV projects have become annual Primetime Emmy Awards darlings, with House of Cards, The Crown, and Orange Is the New Black all frequent visitors to the Emmy stage.

Netflix is no stranger to big investments for content, either. The company paid more than $12 billion in 2018 to acquire and produce new shows and movies, and is expected to invest more than $15 billion this year. While Apple certainly has the stars and some intriguing content coming, it doesn’t have the powerful properties that Disney+ is bringing (Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, etc.) and it’s going to be at a massive disadvantage to Netflix in sheer volume for a long, long time to come.

Cost

Currently, Netflix offers three plans, with the $9 basic plan allowing subscribers to stream standard-definition movies or TV on one screen at a time, the $13 standard plan allowing two simultaneous streams of high-definition content, and the $16 premium plan allowing four streams at 4K resolution with HDR.

netflix vs amazon prime interface

Apple TV+ hasn’t announced its pricing plan yet, with no mention of subscription costs or whether there will be a tiered plan similar to the pricing options offered by Netflix. It’s a fair bet that, like the other “plus” coming from Disney, Apple will use all its might (and cash) to come in at an initial price that falls beneath a comparable Netflix plan, but at this point, we really have no clues as to how it will play out.

Availability

There’s no official word yet on how (or on which devices) Apple TV+ will be made available, but we can obviously assume it will be integrated with Apple products, including iPhones, Apple TVs, computers, and other iOS and macOS devices.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether Apple TV+ will be available on devices outside the Apple ecosystem. With more than 1.4 billion iOS devices in use, that’s a relatively large potential audience. Further, Apple has already begun to broadly integrate its AirPlay 2 service into a wide range of smart TVs and other devices, letting users stream anything from an Apple device to compatible big screens.

Netflix launch in UK on iPad in 2012
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Even with AirPlay in the mix, though, the service will have a tough time competing with Netflix if it isn’t made available on a wide array of non-Apple devices. The industry-leading streaming service, Netflix reportedly has around 150 million subscribers, due in no small part to its availability on nearly every device that streams video.

Apple has made no announcement at this point regarding the availability of Apple TV+ on Roku, Fire TV, or Android devices, or any models of smart TVs.

Video and audio quality

Apple has not indicated yet whether Apple TV+ will offer 4K Ultra HD resolution or HDR video. Given the high profile of many of the filmmakers Apple has partnered with on its original content, and the fact that iTunes (or what was formerly iTunes) already offers 4K content, it’s highly likely that 4K video and HDR (supported by the latest Apple TV device) will indeed be an option in some form.

As mentioned, Netflix offers up to four simultaneous and 4K HDR video streams on its premium plan. Netflix also offers many titles in surround sound, and a limited few in Dolby Atmos. Apple will need to similarly stretch toward audio/video enthusiasts if it wants to compete side-by-side with the ‘flix.

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