Apple's original TV shows will reportedly be free for people who own its devices

As Apple continues to work on producing a slate of original programming that’s decidedly PG in tone, CNBC reports that the upcoming content will be made available for free to customers who own Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs.

The free shows will be offered alongside optional add-on subscriptions to streaming services like HBO Now and Starz in a revamped TV app, according to the report. Apple’s plan to copy Amazon’s Prime Channels model was reported by Bloomberg back in May. What’s new here is the news that the company’s own programming will be offered at no cost inside the overhauled TV app — which is available on iOS and Apple TV — when it is unveiled “early next year.”

Apple has been pumping money into a yet-to-debut catalog of original TV shows and movies as it seeks to compete more directly with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. My colleague Andrew Liptak went over some of it back in June:

Apple has already begun releasing its own projects: it released Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke last year on Apple Music, but its big slate of original content is expected to begin rolling out as early as March 2019. To prepare for that, the company has greenlit or begun developing an impressive slate of projects: so far, Apple has signed a multiyear deal with Oprah Winfrey to develop new shows, ordered a pair of children’s shows from the creators of Sesame Street, a reboot of the science fiction anthology show Amazing Stories, a Hunger Games-style dystopian show called See, a series from La La Land director Damien Chazelle, a thriller series from M. Night Shyamalan, a space drama from Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore, a drama about a morning show starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, and an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s classic science fiction novel Foundation. There are also reports that it’s working to acquire the rights for an animated film.

So it’s likely that at least some of this content will be free to stream for Apple’s customers. There’s always the potential for Apple to eventually launch a recurring subscription more in line with its rivals. Indeed, CNBC says Apple is looking for “tentpole” shows that would help build out a service worth paying for. But giving some of this stuff away for free at the start might be necessary if it wants to get viewers over — even temporarily — from Netflix and the rest.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Tim Cook decided to shelve Vital Signs, a series influenced by the story of Dr. Dre, after the Apple CEO was dismayed by drug and sex scenes in a preview episode. Can Apple create a must-see collection of wholesome fun for the whole family? Sounds pretty daunting (and frankly a little boring) to me.

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