These days it’s easier to count the number of streaming services that don’t have plans to introduce an ad-supported subscription tier. Disney is doing it, as is Netflix, and of course the likes of Hulu and HBO Max have had their own for some time. From the sounds of things, Apple TV Plus could be about to join them all.
According to a report from Digiday (opens in new tab), Apple wants to start selling ad inventory sometime in early 2023. Specifically this content is reportedly about further monetizing the company’s original video content. In short, it sure as heck sounds like commercials might come to Apple TV Plus sometime in the near future.
Typically ad-supported streaming has been a way to offer access to content for a lower monthly cost than ad-free tiers. The idea being that ad-revenue makes up for the fact users are paying less. That’s assuming the company doesn’t pull a Disney Plus, and increase prices for an ad-free tier and slap the original price tag on the one with ads.
Considering Apple TV Plus only costs $5 a month, which is incredibly low by streaming standards, that has a few of us here at Tom’s Guide worried about potential price increases. Especially given Apple’s growing library of high-quality content.
However, it is worth mentioning that Apple TV Plus already earns ad revenue, thanks to its streams of Friday night baseball games. But these spots are sold by the MLB, rather than Apple itself.
This move into ad-territory could be less about adding an ad-supported Apple TV Plus subscription, and more about taking a more proactive part in selling ads in sports live streams. Especially since Apple now has exclusive rights to Major League Soccer games — and a share of both ad space and sponsorship.
Given how much demand there is for sports, and the potential to generate money by having the rights, it’s unlikely that Apple will stop there.
One source told Digiday that they met with Apple to discuss advertising opportunities in sports programming, and that there was no discussion around an ad-supported Apple TV Plus tier. The source noted that it could come up in future discussions, but adding advertising would only happen if Apple can do it without doing “anything to jeopardize the relationship they have with their consumers.”
However a separate source claimed that Apple had plans to integrate its TV wing with an in-house demand side platform — a kind of software that utilizes automation and helps advertisers buy ad space at the lowest possible cost. But again such a system could be less about monetizing the likes of Ted Lasso, and more about boosting revenue from live sports.
There’s still a lot of unknowns at this point, and Apple is rarely in the mood to comment on rumors or speculation. It would not be a huge surprise if the company had been mulling over an ad-supported tier for Apple TV Plus, especially as the rest of the streaming industry has begun embracing ads en-masse. But at the same time there’s every reason to believe that it’s not happening, and meetings with ad executives are simply to better monetize Apple’s live sports — which is already chock full of commercials.
So watch this space. We will be sure to bring you any new information about the possibility of an ad-supported Apple TV Plus subscription if and when we hear it.