With Apple TV+ set to launch in the coming months, we’ve been hearing a few more details on possible pricing and the slate of shows that will be available at launch, and now it appears that some of the more technical details of the service are beginning to emerge as well, thanks to code found in recent betas of macOS Catalina.
According to MacRumors, code strings found in the new macOS TV app reveal that Apple will allow Apple TV+ videos to be downloaded for offline viewing, but that there will be some viewing limitations for subscribers, both in terms of downloads and simultaneous streams.
Of course, we’d certainly be surprised if Apple didn’t make offline viewing available with its own Apple TV+ service, since it appears to be a core feature that it already requires its Apple TV Channels partners such as CBS and HBO to offer. What’s more intriguing, however, is that it looks like Apple plans to set limits on exactly how much can be stored offline, on how many devices it can be stored, and perhaps even how many times the same show can be re-downloaded.
For example, a user trying to download a video again on another device could find the request refused with an error message telling them to delete that episode from one of their other devices and try again. Similarly, a user could reach some kind of maximum download limit, either overall or for a specific show, and would be denied the ability to download that episode again.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that these limitations are being inferred from text strings found within the code of the macOS Catalina app — basically the messages that would be presented to the user when certain conditions are met. It’s therefore hard to know for sure what the actual limits might be. For example, the “multiple devices” limitation could refer to only two devices, or a dozen.
Similarly, overall download limits could be related to macOS, where it’s more feasible to extract a downloaded video file and attempt to use it for other purposes. By comparison, offline viewing on iOS uses more of a library-style “checkout” system, where offline downloads are “returned” to the main library once they’re deleted.
There’s also the possibility that the code is in place simply to lay the groundwork should Apple ever decide to enforce limits, or that any limits that will be enforced will be so high that no reasonable user is ever likely to hit them.
It also looks like Apple TV+ will have the same type of limitations as almost every other streaming service out there when it comes to how many people will be able to watch on a single account. If a user tries to watch any Apple TV+ content on more than the allowed number of devices (whatever that number will be), they’ll be told to stop watching on another device. It appears that this will be a general restriction for the overall Apple TV+ service, and not something enforced on a per-show basis. In other words, it won’t just be about watching the same show on multiple devices, but rather simply using the service from more than one place.
Of course, this one isn’t anything new, and even Apple Music has similar limitations. Although most have long assumed that Apple has limited Apple Music at the behest of the music labels, in this case Apple basically owns the Apple TV+ content itself, so any limitations it’s putting in place are going to be entirely it’s own decision.
Again, however, we really have no way of knowing what upper limits Apple has set here, and it may even be variable depending on a number of factors. For example, family sharing users would hopefully get a higher limit on simultaneous streams overall, and Apple may even adjust the limits according to the number of devices a user, or family, owns.
Further, while Apple has promised that Apple TV+ will support family sharing, it’s not entirely clear whether that will be at a single subscription price, like Apple News+, or whether the company will adopt a two-tier model with separate individual and family plans, like it has for Apple Music.
According to other reports this week, Apple TV+ is expected to launch in November, and while pricing hasn’t yet been finalized, Apple is said to have been considering the same $9.99/month that it charges for Apple Music and Apple News+.