Thursday, October 26, 2023

Apple Services Price Hikes

Joe Rossignol (Hacker News):

The price changes in the U.S. are as follows:

  • Apple TV+: $6.99 per month → $9.99 per month
  • Apple Arcade: $4.99 per month → $6.99 per month
  • Apple News+: $9.99 per month → $12.99 per month


In the U.S., these are the first-ever price increases for Apple Arcade and Apple News+ since the services launched in November 2019, while Apple TV+ had its first price increase from $4.99 per month to $6.99 per month in October 2022.

Dan Moren:

This increase really shouldn’t come as a surprise: Disney+, Hulu, Netflix—almost every major streaming service has raised their prices over the last year. In some cases, this is to compensate for lost revenue from customers canceling cable packages where older more conventional networks and studios used to bring in money for selling their shows.


This is the second price hike for Apple TV+, which debuted at a $4.99 monthly price (free for several months in many cases)—with a rather paltry library of content—before subsequently rising to $6.99 a year ago. Apple’s built up its TV+ content substantially since launch, and the company seems to be making the argument that all of that new material is worth more money.


I do have to raise an eyebrow at the increased costs for both Apple Arcade and Apple News+. Neither of these services seem to have been blockbuster hits for the company, and perhaps Apple’s decided it’s not just going to make it up in volume.

John Gruber:

Subscription pricing requires a form of calculus to find the sweet spot that generates the most money. Set the price too low and you’ll reduce piracy but leave money on the table. Set the price too high and you’ll generate less money because more users — ones who might otherwise have subscribed at a lower price — will choose to bootleg. (Some people, of course, will always choose to bootleg. There’s no point trying to find a price to appease them.)

But pricing isn’t the only factor in this equation. The experience is too. Bootlegging’s obvious appeal is the price: zero. But it’s always been a bit of a pain in the ass. Weird apps and sketchy sources. Steve Jobs emphasized this aspect of the iTunes Music Store when he introduced it: 99 cents was an appealing price, but not as appealing as free. But the overall experience of searching for and downloading music from iTunes was so much better than bootlegging that it made you happy to pay for the songs.

Apple still gets that part: their apps for consuming their services are generally very low on annoyances. You almost never have to sign back in because your previous sign-in expired.

That’s a pretty low bar. I contend that the overall Apple TV experience is just not good these days. It’s so frustrating to navigate and search, and it doesn’t handle state well. It’s nothing like the breath of fresh air that iTunes was. I don’t want to be a pirate, and I don’t want to run a Plex server, but it’s tempting to explore that world because the supposedly premium interface is so obnoxious.

And, as Gruber says, with Apple News+ you are paying for something that’s worse than the Web.

Juli Clover:

In the United States, the price of the Basic [Netflix] plan will increase from $9.99 to $11.99 per month, while the price of the Premium plan will increase from $19.99 to $22.99 per month. The ad-supported tier price will remain the same at $6.99 per month, as will the $15.49/month Standard plan.

Netflix no longer offers the Basic plan to new subscribers in the United States, but prices will presumably increase for existing subscribers.


Update (2023-10-30): Ernesto Van der Sar (via Hacker News):

Blocking pirate sites is widely believed to reduce the number of visits to the targeted domains. However, new research based on data provided by WIPO and funded by the Republic of Korea, suggests that’s not always the case. Roughly a quarter of all domains for which data was available received more visits after they were blocked.

Update (2023-12-12): Adam Chandler:

I’ve listed today’s published costs of what these services cost if you were to sign up for each one individually.

If I were paying for these streaming services every single month, the total cost is $175.49 or $2100 a year. This is more than any cable package I’ve ever had.

Update (2023-12-29): Joe Rosensteel:

Yesterday people seem to be completely shocked by the email they received from Amazon that Prime Video was going to include ads by default, unless subscribers paid an additional sum. This news was from months ago, and I mentioned it here on this blog too.


The only move you have to protest Prime Video’s inclusion of ads, is to cancel Prime (you won’t do that) or to stop using Prime Video “to send a message” (they don’t care).


People are still completely oblivious to why any of the subscription fees are going up. They were too low. They were financed by investors that prioritized growth, when investment money was basically free.


Also, people seem to have this opinion that other companies don’t have ads, so Amazon is a second-rate streamer (whatever that means), but they all have ad-supported tiers, except Apple TV+, and that’s just a matter of time.

Update (2024-02-16): Todd Spangler (via Hacker News):

A lawsuit seeking class-action status accused Amazon of false advertising and deceptive practices because Prime Video now serves commercials by default.

They started the ads within the membership year of people who had signed up before there were ads.

12 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I originally thought I would ditch bootlegging and Plex (or its predecessors) when streaming services came along and streamlined everything. However I have found all of their interfaces to be kludgey, confusing, lacking in features I care about, full of ads, and in many cases, full of dark patterns that try to shepherd me into doing what *they* want rather than what I want. I am highly allergic to such things. I don't want an algorithm trying to rule me or keep me engaged.

Plex and its own source alternatives like Jellyfin are certainly not perfect, and Plex has a few annoyances for me, but at the end of the day they provide a clean, simple, intuitive interface for browsing my own media in a way that makes sense and puts me in control. I don't get that with any paid service I'm aware of. And on top of that, I like being in control of my own media. I don't have to worry about a streaming service pulling my favorite movie because of some behind-the-scenes business deals or making a favorite episode of a show disappear because it contains something that's now considered verboten in the ever-shifting currents of acceptability.

Call me a dinosaur. I still have a TiVo. While there’s less and less of interest to watch on linear TV, the UI/viewing experience still blows away everything else, including AppleTV. Skippable ads. Responsive scanning. Slow mo. Etc. All streaming has done has hijacked the shows that would have existed in a TV format where technology had put control in the hands of the user and put them under the tight control of the providers. We are now paying more for less control over the way we watch TV. It was easy to see this coming.

I've got a fairly substantial library of purchased shows and movies from iTunes and I'll be sad to see the dedicated apps for those disappear from my Apple TV.

First, and this is a purely esthetic complaint, but the "poster art" when browsing your library in the main ATV app is awful and much inferior to the traditional iTunes movie poster artwork. It's all awkward horizontal images with crummy photoshop and bad crops. Hopefully they overhaul this when they make it the only way to browse your library. Second, opening a movie in the old iTunes Movies app would give you a nice DVD style menu screen for that movie with all the language and audio options, extras etc. The Apple TV app's library just sends you straight into the movie, which I guess might be nice as an option but...

Oh, and don't get me started on all the MLS advertising spamming the app in general right now.

It is totally bonkers to me that Apple One Premium is only 17 dollars cheaper per month than the full Adobe Creative Cloud Suite if you pay on an annual basis.

If you use the Infuse app (iOS, Mac, Apple TV) as a front end for Plex, the UI bootleggers get is vastly superior to even Netflix’s app. And if you take a day to set up Sonarr, Radarr and Usenet, even fetching the shows and movies you want is easy to the point where it feels like magic. It all just appears!

While streaming services have been focused on making their apps worse in the name of discovery and upselling, developers working on bootlegger tools have been focused simply on making those tools nicer to use. The pirate’s life is a charmed one in 2023. It really is night and day versus the early 2000s.

Kevin Schumacher

I LOLed pretty hard at Gruber's assertions about acquiring and managing bootlegged content:

"Bootlegging’s obvious appeal is the price: zero. But it’s always been a bit of a pain in the ass. Weird apps and sketchy sources."
"go through all the hassle of obtaining pirated content and cracked copies of games and apps, and managing your own local library of content that’s fallen off the back of these proverbial trucks (bad)."

I find Plex to be vastly more usable than any other streaming app I've used. And the process of acquiring is simple and "non-sketchy" for me (public trackers are so late 2000s), and could be even more simple, as Yarr describes. (I prefer more direct control.) And my media server is a 2012 Mac mini, still chugging along.

Kevin Schumacher

Sorry for the dupe comment but also the Arcade increase kind of irks me, but I'm not terribly surprised and I don't terribly begrudge them. $4.99 was never going to be sustainable. Even considering that a lot of the Arcade games are not of the depth of console games, Game Pass is $15 a month now and has a similar number of games, so it does feel like Apple was leaving money on the table.

An immediate 43% price hike shouldn’t come as a surprise?

Also wasn’t aware of the Netflix price hike.

I suspect monthly cancellable subscriptions will get the ole heave-ho next, b/c that would seem to be the obvious consequence of every service hiking prices.

I don’t get it. Does everyone simply subscribe to several services and ignore the cost? Is there really enough lock-in simply from the trouble to hit “cancel subscription”? Or are monthly fly-bys the rule and they’re trying to charge more for “sub, binge, quit”? Is this inflation run amok so badly we’re all in “concert beer price” mode and have lost the ability to feel sticker shock?

Biggest winner long-term will probably be OTA TV, which is already getting more sports events. The commercial was down, but appears to ultimately still be king.

I'm moderately surprised that none of the quoted people mentioned the inflation that's been happening over the past couple of years.

In terms of service: I thought $5/mo was a pretty good deal. And at an annual plan, it was even cheaper. So I was on that for a while. Then they increased the price to $7/mo, and recently, I found that I hadn't watched anything there in months. Not really Apple's fault; I just wasn't in the mood for even more series. So I cancelled my annual plan, and was going to resubscribe for a single month as soon as FAM S4 came out. Then, another price increase. Double within a little over a year.

Should it have "come as a surprise"? Not to people who watch the industry and notice that pretty much all of them did it, including Disney+. I'm not sure the average consumer is this mindful.

To Apple's credit, managing subscriptions is fairly easy.

As for the app: I think Gruber is right to recall Jobs's argument that legal options for digital downloads need to be _good_. But like Michael, I disagree that TV is an example of this. I find the app frustrating to use, in part due to deliberate design decisions that surface content I don't care about in favor of content I clearly _do_, because I've watching it (why, for example, not just add a "Followed"/"Subscribed"/"You've Been Watching" or something section to the sidebar? You could even add a badge if there's a new episode in such series!). But then on top of that, there's weird quirks about the UI that are either bugs, or simply not well-designed. I've reported some; with others, I've gotten so frustrated that I haven't bothered.

It's the Claims Effect, the reverse of the network effect.

Every new player that lays claim to a patch of content makes the experience worse, and more expensive, for consumers.

If you want to be able to watch all the popular shows you have to pay for I don't know how many streaming services.

Every new entrant creates a choice that might lead to you ditching one of the services you're paying for.

Apple raising prices might lead to Disney losing subs etc.

Multiple small incompatible markets selling almost the same thing is shit for consumers.

Ideally, they're (they being literally all streaming services) going to price the ad-free tiers high enough to bring everyone back to their ad-supported VOD model, as it makes the company VASTLY more money.

It's not complicated. It's money.

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