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Apple on Monday released an update to iPhones, iPads and Apple TV that includes its brand new TV app with Apple Channels.
Apple Channels is the company's new service that offers customers in more than 100 countries subscription access to premium networks such as HBO, Showtime, Epix, Smithsonian Channel, Starz and Tastemade. Other channels, such as CBS All-Access and MTV Hits, are coming later this year. Right now, if you signed up for every channel package available, however, you'd pay $97 a month.
It's Apple's first big push into making money off TV content outside of sales through the iTunes store.
Apple hasn't said what its cut of revenue from subscribers who sign up to services through Apple Channels will be, but CNBC reported in February that the company was pushing for 30%. Some reports suggest Apple gets 15% of revenues from subscribers who sign up for services such as HBO Now, Netflix and other streaming apps through the App Store.
Apple reported revenue for its services segment of $11.45 billion in its second-quarter earnings report on April 30, beating analyst estimates. Channels gives Apple a way to continue to focus on its services business as sales of hardware, including iPhones, plateau. In other words, this gives Apple new ways to make money from customers who already own its products.
Channels is not Apple TV+, the service that will include original programming from Apple and will launch later this fall. But Channels does launch with a brand new TV app that Apple says will show people compelling content they'll want to watch. It will highlight some of the hit shows from the networks that customers can subscribe to, such as HBO's "Game of Thrones."
More than 100,000 movies and TV shows are also available to rent or purchase in the app, which means customers don't need to open the iTunes store and leave the app to buy more things to watch.
And instead of pushing viewers out of the Apple TV app and into another app, like HBO, Starz or Showtime, Apple TV Channels immediately begins streaming the show, which helps keep people inside Apple's ecosystem. There's a trade-off for this, however. Anyone who subscribes to the channels can only watch them within the TV app. The subscription won't work on other platforms such as Sony's PlayStation or a Roku box.
Conversely, if you pay for HBO through your cable provider already, or directly from HBO, it'll work in Apple TV. But some features won't work, like offline downloads. And it feels less seamless since Apple TV will push you out into that separate app instead of playing the content right away.
A new "What to Watch" screen inside the Apple TV app provides curated content from Apple editors that's based on what's popular around the world. Apple said it's using human editors combined with its algorithms to make recommendations so users don't sit and endlessly scroll trying to find something good to watch.
It's a problem most of us have experienced with the influx of streaming content now available. When you select a show, Apple provides data on who stars in it and a summary of the episode or movie and will begin automatically playing the trailer at the top of the screen. It looks really clean and provides most of what a person browsing for a new TV show or movie might want.
There's also a new kids section with content curated for a younger audience. This includes lots of animated movies and TV shows that users can either stream, download or buy, depending on whether it's included with one of the subscriptions in Apple TV Channels.
There's also an option to download content and save it for offline viewing on an iPhone or iPad when you don't have an internet connection. This will help Apple TV Channels stand out against standalone apps from HBO, Showtime and others that require an internet connection for viewing. This, above all else, might make it one of the most compelling reasons to sign up for a service through Apple TV Channels instead of elsewhere.
Apple Channels won't be limited to just Apple products. The company announced a partnership with Samsung in January in which select Samsung Smart TVs will have access to the new Apple TV app. It won't offer the full experience of an Apple TV, which also supports apps and games, but it will provide the same experience for watching TV shows and movies. The Samsung app will also launch Monday on all 2019 smart TV models and some 2018 models.
Apple TV will launch on Amazon's Fire TV, Sony TVs, LG TVs and Roku devices later this year.
Unlike Apple News+, the company's $9.99 per month subscription news service that allows you to download more than 300 magazines and read articles from The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, Apple Channels does not have a bundle option. That means you need to subscribe to each individual video service separately, instead of buying an all-you-can-eat plan that includes everything.
And, after a one-week free trial of the premium services, users will pay the standard price they would pay anywhere else. Showtime costs $10.99 per month, for example. However, families up to 6 people can share a single subscription.
Disney's upcoming streaming service Disney+ seems like a perfect fit for Apple TV Channels. It launches on Nov. 12, will cost $6.99 per month and will include a huge library of Disney content. Apple had no comment on whether Disney+ will eventually launch in Channels, or if talks are underway, but said it is well aware that it's going to be a popular service.
Apple is releasing an update to iPhones, iPads and the Apple TV on Monday that will give you the whole new experience. To get the update on iPhones and iPads, go to "Settings," choose "General" and then choose "Software Update," and on Apple TV, go to "Settings," then "System," then "Software Update."