With a cornucopia of services offering competitive pricing and ever more high-caliber originals, accessibility is key. Without support that meets viewers where they’re watching content, wherever or however that may be, a service may as well not exist. This is especially true for a company that wants its services to be the de facto streaming service du jour.
Sony announced today that its smart TVs will finally be getting the Apple TV app, home of its marquee streaming service Apple TV+. The Apple TV app will start rolling out to X900H series TVs with a software update beginning today, with support arriving on select 2018 models and most 2019 and 2020 models later this year, the company said. That means that Sony folks will be able to access Apple TV+ directly from their TVs without having to defer to a separate device or AirPlay 2—something that’s important if Apple wants to maximize its subscriber base. And it does.
That makes Sony the latest in a list of smart TVs that were promised to have support for the Apple TV app at Apple TV+’s launch. At the time, support outside of Apple’s own devices was limited to Roku and Amazon devices and Samsung smart TVs, but Apple had said that support would arrive on LG, Sony, and VIZIO platforms at an unspecified time “in the future.” That was nearly a year ago—which, better late than never, I guess?
I myself am the owner of a Sony x900H, and let me tell you, this is fantastic news. While I have an Apple TV box and at least a dozen other streaming devices on hand for review purposes, I prefer to live on the home screen of my Sony. For one, dealing with multiple remotes—which I sometimes have to when my Apple TV remote fails to also fire on my television—is annoying as hell. A minor annoyance, sure, but a nuisance nonetheless! Another thing, though, is that I quite like my Sony’s Android TV home screen that teases out relevant content across my various apps, something I find useful when I’m not in the mood to aimlessly browse Netflix or Prime Video.
Apple isn’t adding support on my Sony TV, or on other smart TVs, out of the goodness of its own heart, however. Playing nice with other platforms—rather than limiting access to its big-best investment in streaming to Apple devices—is integral to Apple TV+’s survival. Right now, its scrappy lineup of originals are up against industry titans that have years and years of content on their platforms, in some cases padded out with a shit load of licensed content as with a service like Hulu or Prime Video. With a focus exclusively on originals and premium subscriptions to, for example, Showtime, Apple is going to take time to build out a library that can stand on its own against the likes of Disney+ or Netflix.
What that means is that, at least for now, Apple’s best option for attaining and retaining subscribers is to make its streaming app accessible across as many platforms as possible at as competitive a price as it can reasonably get away with. For many subscribers, that price is $5 per month, or about the cost of a fancy cup of coffee. Apple also offers its service to plenty of folks for free for a year with a new Apple product—a clever way of luring in users who wouldn’t otherwise be interested in paying for it. But a free subscription to premium content is useless if it can’t be accessed on a user’s own terms, and in most cases, that’s likely on the biggest possible screen in their homes: their TV.
Apple is still gonna Apple, and there are plenty of platforms that do not support the Apple TV app. But it’s clear Apple knows that premium smart TVs and two of the most popular streaming devices on the market are absolutely paramount to its own success. And at least for the foreseeable future, and as long as it’s making content meant to be watched on TVs, Apple’s going to have to keep playing nice.