The clock is ticking on ad-free Apple TV+, so enjoy it while you can

Macworld

After the landgrab comes the cashgrab. Having pushed for quick growth by luring in users with low prices, lax password enforcement, bingeable series dropped in one go, and a lack of adverts, the streaming services are gradually reverting to type. And not even Apple appears to be immune to the appeal of advertising dollars.

Business Insider reports this week that Apple has recruited Joseph Cady, a high-ranking TV ad exec from NBCUniversal. Cady’s role, the site reports, “was EVP of advanced advertising and partnerships, putting him in charge of data-driven and targeted TV advertising.” He oversaw partnerships with Amazon, Google, and TikTok, among others.

And this is only the latest in a series of high-profile hires related to TV advertising, with Business Insider naming five more big names that have joined Cupertino this year or in 2023. The hiring activity strongly suggests that Apple plans to put adverts on its Apple TV+ streaming service (or at the very least is considering that as an option), because that’s precisely the area of expertise which these new recruits bring. It would make no sense to hire six big-money TV ad execs and then continue to run ad-free TV content only on its streaming service.

In any case, the direction of the market is going in one direction. Here’s how the other streaming giants have dealt with advertising:

Netflix: Launched a cheaper “Basic with Ads” tier in November 2022.

Disney+: Launched a cheaper ad-supported tier in December 2022. (Some features were removed from the standard tier at the same time, encouraging customers to upgrade to Premium.)

Amazon Prime Video: Introduced ads on its standard tier (which stayed the same price) in January 2024, and charges extra if you don’t want to see them.

In this context it would be odd if Apple didn’t at least consider putting adverts in TV+. After all, as we saw with all those smartphone companies removing headphone ports and leaving power adapters out of boxes after Apple did it, having rivals do something unpopular first is a great way to get PR cover for doing it later yourself. And it’s essentially free money.

Or is it? In the past we might have pointed out that Apple, famously, likes to Think Different. It isn’t really in the content business; each TV+ subscription brings in revenue, sure, but also sells customers on the entire Apple hardware ecosystem. And when you’re selling a premium lifestyle, the user experience is paramount.

Sadly, those days appear to be behind us; one glance at search on the App Store will tell you that. Instead of making search as accurate and helpful as possible, Apple sells advertising slots to the highest bidder, even if they’re wildly unrelated. The user experience is no longer king at Apple Park.

So we should probably prepare for ads on TV+. Based on the behavior of rival companies the most likely approach is for this to be offered as a new tier that costs less than any existing tier. Only Amazon has been cheeky enough to add adverts to a tier while keeping the same price and then charge extra on top of that for ad-free. But however Apple handles it, it’s a depressing indication of the way that streaming has transitioned from exciting market disruptor to cynical cash cow. And no amount of Jon Hamm can make us feel good about that.

For now, here are some ways to get Apple TV+ for free.

Streaming Media

​Macworld Macworld

After the landgrab comes the cashgrab. Having pushed for quick growth by luring in users with low prices, lax password enforcement, bingeable series dropped in one go, and a lack of adverts, the streaming services are gradually reverting to type. And not even Apple appears to be immune to the appeal of advertising dollars.

Business Insider reports this week that Apple has recruited Joseph Cady, a high-ranking TV ad exec from NBCUniversal. Cady’s role, the site reports, “was EVP of advanced advertising and partnerships, putting him in charge of data-driven and targeted TV advertising.” He oversaw partnerships with Amazon, Google, and TikTok, among others.

And this is only the latest in a series of high-profile hires related to TV advertising, with Business Insider naming five more big names that have joined Cupertino this year or in 2023. The hiring activity strongly suggests that Apple plans to put adverts on its Apple TV+ streaming service (or at the very least is considering that as an option), because that’s precisely the area of expertise which these new recruits bring. It would make no sense to hire six big-money TV ad execs and then continue to run ad-free TV content only on its streaming service.

In any case, the direction of the market is going in one direction. Here’s how the other streaming giants have dealt with advertising:

Netflix: Launched a cheaper “Basic with Ads” tier in November 2022.

Disney+: Launched a cheaper ad-supported tier in December 2022. (Some features were removed from the standard tier at the same time, encouraging customers to upgrade to Premium.)

Amazon Prime Video: Introduced ads on its standard tier (which stayed the same price) in January 2024, and charges extra if you don’t want to see them.

In this context it would be odd if Apple didn’t at least consider putting adverts in TV+. After all, as we saw with all those smartphone companies removing headphone ports and leaving power adapters out of boxes after Apple did it, having rivals do something unpopular first is a great way to get PR cover for doing it later yourself. And it’s essentially free money.

Or is it? In the past we might have pointed out that Apple, famously, likes to Think Different. It isn’t really in the content business; each TV+ subscription brings in revenue, sure, but also sells customers on the entire Apple hardware ecosystem. And when you’re selling a premium lifestyle, the user experience is paramount.

Sadly, those days appear to be behind us; one glance at search on the App Store will tell you that. Instead of making search as accurate and helpful as possible, Apple sells advertising slots to the highest bidder, even if they’re wildly unrelated. The user experience is no longer king at Apple Park.

So we should probably prepare for ads on TV+. Based on the behavior of rival companies the most likely approach is for this to be offered as a new tier that costs less than any existing tier. Only Amazon has been cheeky enough to add adverts to a tier while keeping the same price and then charge extra on top of that for ad-free. But however Apple handles it, it’s a depressing indication of the way that streaming has transitioned from exciting market disruptor to cynical cash cow. And no amount of Jon Hamm can make us feel good about that.

For now, here are some ways to get Apple TV+ for free.

Streaming Media 

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