June 30 is circled my calendar with a note to "cancel Apple TV Plus." That's when my free trial — which began when the streaming serviced launched in November 2019 — finally ends. Apple extended that free trial twice until July 2021, when I and millions of other users will have to start paying for it.
So, I set a reminder to cancel Apple TV Plus. But now, I'm keeping it — and not just to watch Ted Lasso season 2. I'll pay $4.99 a month because, some 20 months after launch, Apple TV Plus is hitting its groove and making a case for itself in the crowded streaming landscape. Call it Hot Apple TV Plus Summer.
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When Apple TV Plus launched, it was ... well, there wasn't much to it beyond a handful of marquee originals, like The Morning Show, For All Mankind and Dickinson.
Apple insisted it was going to focus only on high-quality originals, not on building a back catalog of content like every other streamer in existence. But that lack of a library made Apple TV Plus fall far behind the other new streaming service that debuted in November 2019: Disney Plus. The house of the mouse's streaming platform quickly exceeded its subscriber goals thanks to a deep vault of classic films and a blockbuster hit original in The Mandalorian.
And then came robust players with big catalogs like HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount Plus and even Discovery Plus. Each beckons potential subscribers with franchises such as Friends, The Office, Harry Potter, Batman and Star Trek.
Apple TV Plus couldn't compete with that, so to keep users from fleeing, the service relied on the oldest sales trick in the book: Giving away free samples.
The Apple TV Plus free trial couldn't last forever
Apple TV Plus already boasted one of the longest free trials of any subscription service. With the purchase of an eligible Apple product, you received a free 1-year trial to Apple TV Plus. I bought an iPhone 11 Pro in the fall of 2019 and signed up for the new service on launch day, November 1.
The next October, in the midst of the pandemic, Apple announced it was extending that trial through February 2021. At a time when everybody was staying at home, streaming entertainment kept many of us sane and we applauded Apple's move.
Then in February of this year, Apple decided to extend the free trial again, to July 2021. Yes, the pandemic was still going on (though vaccines had begun rolling out), but this time, the extension didn't seem like a good sign for Apple TV Plus.
I wondered if their subscriber numbers were so low that the company was better off continuing to eat the cost of producing all that glossy content for a little longer. At least until they had more/enough glossy content to make users like me feel like I was getting my monthly $5 worth. That time has finally come.
Apple TV Plus is poised to have a great summer
When I was putting together our summer TV 2021 must-watch list, I noticed how many of the titles will be on Apple TV Plus. In fact, Apple TV Plus looks to have the best lineup out of all streaming services and TV networks this summer.
It's anchored, of course, by the return of Ted Lasso, possibly the best show to debut last year and certainly one of the top new comedies of the last decade. You'd better BELIEVE we'll be glued to our screen when Ted Lasso season 2 premieres July 23.
But one great show does not a streaming service make. This summer also brings the second season of the excellent animated musical comedy Central Park and a handful of intriguing new series featuring big names.
Physical stars Rose Byrne as a housewife in the '80s who builds an aerobics empire. The show looks like it could fill the GLOW-sized hole that Netflix shot through our hearts.
Cecily Strong and Keegan Michael-Key team up for Schmigadoon!, a satire of the Broadway musical Brigadoon. They're two of our favorite comedic performers and we're excited to see them sing, dance and joke around.
Mr. Corman was created, written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also stars in the lead role. He's previously said that the main character is a "what if" version of himself, if he'd made different choices in life.
On the movies side, in August, Apple TV Plus is presenting CODA, the Sundance Film Festival darling about a teen girl who has grown up as the child of deaf adults. The movie won the festival's Grand Jury Prize and could be a contender in the upcoming awards season.
On top of all that are shows that are already streaming now, like the new miniseries Lisey's Story, adapted by Stephen King from his own novel, produced by J.J. Abrams and starring Julianne Moore. New seasons of Mythic Quest and Trying are also in the middle of their runs.
Apple TV Plus' bet on quality is paying off
And let's not forget the sterling, if small, library that Apple TV has built up over the last 20 months. The Morning Show is worth watching, Dickinson is delightfully weird and For All Mankind had an amazing second season that ended with a jaw-dropping finale.
Apple's unscripted department has a lot to offer, from the gorgeous nature photography of Tiny World to the mental health series from Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey. Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry is one of the better musician/concert docs in recent memory.
No, Apple TV Plus can't compete with Netflix or Disney Plus when it comes to quantity. But I'd put it up there with HBO Max in terms of quality. With this summer's new projects, Apple TV Plus has finally arrived at the point that I wasn't sure it could reach — it's worth paying for. I've deleted my calendar reminder to cancel.
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