After Roku announced in April that it would officially add an Apple TV+ shortcut to its coveted remote buttons — a foursome that also includes Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ — the streaming giant has officially added an image of the new remote to its homepage, signaling the button’s arrival on the eve of Apple TV+ free trials ending for millions of subscribers.
As Josef Adalian wrote in April, when the change was first announced, the remote buttons are “incredibly valuable real estate for platforms, which actually pay Roku for the right to be included” (as much as $1 per customer according to a 2019 report). The quick-access buttons mean easy admission to the streamers is just one click away, instead of having to toggle through Roku’s home screen to find the service you need. In the bigger picture, Apple’s Roku deal came as a bit of a surprise, considering how the company has historically refused to bend to other players in the tech world. This perhaps signals that Apple execs are willing to market their original content (like the returning Ted Lasso, back with a second season in late July) in places other than their native Apple hardware — especially on a service like Roku, whose players are the most widely distributed in the U.S.
Of the four services with buttons on new Roku remotes, Apple TV+ reportedly has the lowest subscriber base, notching just 40 million (the service doesn’t release numbers, but estimates suggest this figure is closest to reality) to Hulu’s 41.6 million, Netflix’s 208 million, and Disney+’s 100 million. Notably, many Apple TV+ subscribers were recently informed that their lengthy free trials (which came after purchasing an Apple device) will come to an end on July 1, meaning an all-but-assured dip in paid ($5 per month) subscribers when the clock strikes midnight — all the more reason to want to market (and, in essence, advertise) your service to Roku users (a reported 53.6 million active users) looking for content to help fill the void. (New Apple device purchasers will now only receive a three-month trial of Apple TV+, compared to an initial one-year trial.)
Remote buttons aren’t just prime real estate but also an indication of a service’s status in the larger streaming landscape. On the new Sony Playstation 5 remote, the spaces are notably claimed by Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, and Disney+. For Roku, SlingTV+ previously occupied the Apple TV+ slot, though it does vary by country; throughout Roku’s run, it has included buttons for HBO Now (RIP), Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, SlingTV+, Starz, and Vudu.