Apple TV Plus has been introduced in India, priced at Rs 99 per month for a six-member family sharing account. The latest service from the hardware giant will be available from November 1, and in its first round of rollout, can be used on iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, Mac and even the latest generation iPod Touch. With its launch, much discussion has risen regarding the impact that Apple TV Plus can have on the industry, and how rival services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others would react to it. Given its scope, we decided to put together a comprehensive comparison in terms of content and pricing among Apple TV Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar and Zee5, which rank among the most used video streaming services in India.
Apple TV Plus: Avoiding any complication whatsoever, Apple TV Plus has a single subscription plan, at Rs 99 per month. The plan is a part of Apple's Family Sharing initiative, which means that up to six members in your Family Sharing list can share the same Apple TV Plus subscription worth Rs 99 per month, hence effectively costing each person as little as Rs 16.5 per month. Each member of the plan is identified by their respective Apple ID, which is mandatory for subscribing. There are no other plans for Apple TV Plus, in India or elsewhere. Upon subscribing, the first seven days is given for free. For those purchasing new Apple products right now, a one-year Apple TV Plus subscription is being given for free.
Netflix: In India, Netflix offers four tiers of subscription plans. The most basic plan is 'Mobile', priced at Rs 199 per month. With this, users can only watch content on mobile, and will be restricted to SD resolution. The next tier is 'Basic', which costs Rs 499 per month and adds the ability to stream on laptops and compatible TVs as well, but for only one screen at a time, in SD resolution. The 'Standard' plan costs Rs 649 per month, and adds HD playback to the offering, and allows for two screens to be accessed with the same subscription, simultaneously. The top tier is called 'Premium', which costs Rs 799, and allows four users to stream at the same time, in up to Ultra HD, 4K and HDR resolutions. All the plans offer access to all of Netflix's library for India, and new subscribers for any plan will get the first 30 days free.
Amazon Prime Video: Like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video also offers the first 30 days for free, beyond which the service costs Rs 129 per month, or Rs 999 per year. There is no resolution or screen-based restrictions between either plan, and Prime Video allows for three users to stream different programmes at the same time, or two users to stream the same programme on different devices.
Hotstar: The India-centric streaming service allows only one user to stream content using one account, simultaneously. There are two subscription plans at hand — Premium, which provides access to any content on Hotstar, and VIP, which is restricted to live sports and Indian shows only. The former can be subscribed to at Rs 299 per month or Rs 999 per year, while the latter can only be availed annually, at Rs 365 per year.
Zee5: Another India-centric streaming service, Zee5 has more layered subscription plans at hand. The all-access pack can be picked in three durations — Rs 99 for one month, Rs 599 for six months and Rs 999 for a year. Users can also pick a bundled plan of Zee5 and Gaana+ (for music streaming) for Rs 198 per month, or pick among the Tamil, Telugu and Kannada regional packs for either Rs 49 per month or Rs 499 per year. With the all-access pack, up to six users can use the same Zee5 account together, hence matching Apple's per-user pricing.
Content and platforms
Apple TV Plus: Apple's latest content streaming service will initially be made available only on Apple's platforms, across iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV and iPod. By the end of the year, Apple TV Plus can be used through the native Apple TV app on select Samsung TVs from 2018 and 2019, while next year, Apple aims to expand support to the Amazon Fire TV platform, as well as TVs by LG, Sony and Vizio. In terms of content, Apple aims to make Apple TV Plus more like a specialised television channel-slash-distribution medium. As a result, from what we know so far, Apple TV Plus will not feature content sourced from other platforms, or production houses. Instead, Apple TV Plus will be all about originals, and on November 1, the service will premiere with See feat. Jason Momoa, The Morning Show feat. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell, Dickinson, For All Mankind, Helpsters, Snoopy in Space, Ghostwriter, The Elephant Queen and a project by Oprah Winfrey. Going forward, Apple will premiere more shows including M. Night Shyamalan's Servant, Truth Be Told, Little America, The Banker and Hala. Apple has announced that typically, most shows will be launched with three episodes at premiere, followed by a new episode every week. However, it has stated that some shows might still launch with all episodes at the same time.
Netflix: Being one of the world's most used streaming service, Netflix is present across pretty much every popular platform, including most major televisions, Android, iOS, web app and more. Netflix has a wide collection of originals and sourced content, including India specific content such as Sacred Games, and the upcoming Bard of Blood. Netflix also has a substantial collection of Hindi and regional Indian content to boot — highlighting the key difference between itself and Apple TV Plus.
Amazon Prime Video: Like Netflix, Prime Video is also available across most major platforms such as web browsers, Android and iOS. However, its Android TV app is still pending, although users can access it via the Amazon Fire TV stick. Content-wise, it operates in a very similar format as Netflix, offering a mix of originals such as Mirzapur and The Grand Tour, as well as sourced content such as popular Indian TV shows and Bollywood flicks.
Hotstar: Hotstar operates through a web app, Android and iOS apps, as well as Android TV support that makes it compatible with many TVs. In terms of content, Hotstar's biggest draw is live TV coverage including exclusive rights to the English Premier League, Formula 1, Bundesliga and most cricket tournaments. Hotstar also features HBO's original programming that brings to India smash hits such as Game of Thrones, along with a mix of popular Hollywood and Indian TV shows and movies.
Zee5: Alongside Android, iOS and the Amazon Fire TV platform, Zee5 can be accessed on specific televisions from Xiaomi, Samsung and LG. Content-wise, Zee5 brings with itself its popular Indian TV programming from Zee's television network in multiple Indian languages, which provides its biggest draw in terms of unique customer base. Zee5 has also begun programming original content, so far focusing solely on vernacular content. For western movie and show aficionados, Zee5 would be a disappointment.