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Here's what you need to know about the Apple TV+ launch

After spending billions and signing up a who's who in Hollywood, Apple TV+ is set to make its debut on Friday. Apple is setting competitive rates to get users on its platform. For $4.99 per month, Apple TV+ will be one of the cheapest services in the space. It will also be the only one directly tied to the gadget company's hardware. 

But the smartphone maker has tough competition. Apple is not exactly an underdog — it spent a reported $6 billion on the service — but it has a much smaller library of content compared to entertainment powerhouses like Disney, which will be launching its own streaming service later this month, or Netflix, which dominates streaming with 150 million global subscribers. 

Here's what you need to know about the new Apple service: 

Top of the morning 

Apple is counting on its flagship offering, "The Morning Show," to attract new users. The drama series starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carrell, follows fictional anchors on a morning news show after the ouster of Carrell's character on sexual misconduct. Apple reportedly paid $300 million for two seasons of the show, or about $15 million per episode.

Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon play two journalists navigating a morning news show during the Me Too era. Apple

But lukewarm early reviews of the show — it has a 58% rating on Rotten Tomatoes — suggest that Apple still has plenty of creative work to do: "We feel stronger that consumers will not cancel Netflix for Apple TV Plus," Justin Patterson, analyst at Raymond James, wrote in a note.

What else do you get? 

Just nine original shows will launch Friday, including "See," Apple's other marquee offering that stars Jason Momoa in a post-apocalyptic world where a virus has left everyone blind for centuries. There's also a half-hour comedy on poet Emily Dickinson starring Hailee Steinfeld. Other shows include animated series Snoopy in Space, a Sesame Street spinoff called Helpsters, a kids program called Ghostwriter, and a documentary called The Elephant Queen. 

But critics were similarly not fans of the shows in early reviews, which were mixed at best. Critics gave Momoa's "See" a 38% rating; the Dickinson comedy garnered much better ratings at 81%. 

Jason Momoa plays a tribal chief whose twin children are mysteriously born with the ability to see centuries after a virus wiped out the faculty. Apple

The limited offerings could also help explain why Apple TV+ is one of the cheapest streaming subscriptions out there. When Disney+ launches next week, users will pay $6.99 per month, but they will also get 25 original shows and 10 original movies, as well as access Disney's expansive content library that includes titles from Marvel, National Geographic and Pixar. 

Hulu's most basic service costs $5.99 a month, or $11.99 for the ad-free version. HBO Now costs $14.99, Netflix starts at $8.99. Unless you already have Prime membership, Amazon Prime Video membership costs $8.99 per month. CBS All Access costs $5.99 per month and $9.99 to go commercial-free.  

Where can you watch it? 

Subscribers can watch Apple TV+ just about anywhere that the Apple TV app is available. On Apple's own gadgets, Apple TV+ will sit with other streaming channels on the app like Starz and HBO. It will also be available on select Samsung smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices. Streamers can also access the service at through Chrome, Firefox and Safari. 

Apple is also rolling out the red carpet for new users. In September, the tech giant offered a year's Apple TV+ subscription for free with the purchase of a new iPhone. Students with an existing Apple Music monthly subscription can get Apple TV+ for free. Apple also allows up to six users to stream the service at once in a family plan. 

It's worth noting that Apple is jumping deeper into the entertainment business just as its smartphone business is drying up. Sales of smartphones fell 9% in Apple's fourth quarter to $33.4 billion from $36.8 billion during the same period last year. At the same time, sales of services rose 18% to $12.5 billion from $10.6 billion last year.

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