The Great Courses Signature Collection Now Available Through Apple TV Channels
The Great Courses Signature Collection is the latest video subscription service to be made available through Apple TV Channels.
Previously only available through Amazon and Roku, The Great Courses Signature Collection offers access to over 200 of The Great Courses' latest video courses taught by leading U.S. professors. Categories include history, better living, science and mathematics, and literature and learning.
Apple introduced the Channels feature in early 2019, providing a way for Apple TV users to subscribe to standalone services directly in the TV app. There is a growing selection of Channels available, including CBS All Access, Showtime, Epix, Starz, Cinemax, AMC+, and more.
The Great Courses Signature Collection is available now in the U.S. via the Apple TV app, Amazon Prime Video, and Roku for $7.99 per month. There is also a seven-day free trial available to try the service out.
Top Rated Comments
As others have commented, the company has made it very confusing for users by offering different ways of accessing the content -- The Great Courses, The Great Courses Plus, The Great Courses Signature Collection, Great Courses on Audible etc. The below refers to my experience using "The Great Courses", not the other variations.
* Most lectures are 30 minutes long and a typical course has 24-36 such lectures. There are a few that have 12 lectures and some that have as many as 48 lectures.
* Selection is enormous, art, music, science, history, philosophy, religion, literature, self help, technology. The range of courses is outstanding.
* Overall, I've found the content to be very, very good and equal to what one would get in a college level course at a good university. Of the 73 courses I've purchase, I only regret buying 3 of them.
* Full retail prices for the courses are usually $200-$500, but this is a price anchoring strategy to get you to believe that you're getting a great deal when they're on sale --- which is pretty much always. There is no reason to buy at full retail price. Wait and the course will be on sale soon enough. On sale you're more likely to pay $19-$69 for a course depending on whether it's audio or video and the number of lectures in the course. Realistically, you're paying about $1.50 per lecture, or put another way, $3/hour for entertainment. Cheap in my opinion.
* I think you'd be insane to buy the physical media (CD/DVD) nowadays. The "Instant Video" or "Instant Audio" options are less expensive and more versatile. You can steam these to your computer or iPad, or view them on your TV if you have Roku. Audio files get played on your phone or iPod or even on your computer if you desire.
* While I find it most convenient to stream video to my Roku, buying the "Instant Video/Audio" courses also give you the ability to download the files to your computer in MP3 and M4V format. I always do this. If at some point the Great Courses goes out of business, I still have access to the courses I've purchased. This is one upside to buying vs subscribing. Having said that, I think it's fair to say that there will be courses that you'll only enjoy once and I don't think you'll play any of them more than a few times in your lifetime.
* Almost all courses are offered in both audio and video formats. For some courses, the video format is a must. A course on the "Art of the Renaissance" isn't all that good if you can't see the artwork the lecturer is discussing. Likewise, there isn't a particularly good reason to buy "How to Appreciate Great Music" as a video course when the important content is all audio.
* While the content might make it critical to buy the Video version of the course, NONE of the video courses I’ve purchased really takes advantage of the visual format to present the materials. “Video” in this world means you see the instructor in front of a podium delivering the lecture with an image or video clip thrown in as if they were presenting off of a Powerpoint slide. This can be very dull and it is so much less than what it could be. My greatest criticism of the Great Courses is that they have their origins in tape and CD format and the company has never really learned how to make a great video course. Even a course like “Traveling to Greece and Turkey” which would greatly benefit from excellent visuals, is saddled with pretty pedestrian video and still photography.
* The lecturers are knowledgeable, but like many college professors, they are not necessarily gifted entertainers. This is most apparent in the videos. Some lecturers are clearly not comfortable on camera. Don’t expect these to be wildly entertaining. You will enjoy them and you will learn from them, but at times you’ll wish the lectures were more condensed or that the lecturer would be less idiosyncratic in their presentation.
The bottom line..... yes, I'd recommend the Great Courses. If you consider yourself a lifetime learner, listen to lots of TED talks, etc. you'll find these enjoyable.
Audible is just content (without video) acquired as part of your Audible subscription. TGC state that lectures, where visuals are "essential" to appreciate the lecture, are not available as audio-only, but I can't find an explanation of how they define "essential".
The Great Courses is all or most of their content as an own forever option and seems to follow the radio story / early VHS justified obscene pricing strategy. You can buy downloadable video, audio-only, or DVDs directly from them. The Joy of Science ('https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/joy-of-science') is popular (4.6/5.0 stars), and old (recorded between 1998 and 2000) and demonstrates the quality and absurdity of the price model used. Right now a DVD would cost $614.95, Instant Video is $529.95, and Instant Audio is $299.95. These are not library prices and are intended for personal consumption only. If purchased as a bundle with The Philosophy of Science ('https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/philosophy-of-science'), which is on sale, you can get the two on DVD for $146.90 or Audio for $75.90. No Instant Video option is available. Due to the small market for this type of content prices will be high, but these fees are all over the place, and even $75 seems unreasonable for 30 hours of 23-year-old science content. A little Binging (just kidding, Google) showed that they often do sales between 30% to 90% off.
The signature collection appears to be 200 curated videos from the Plus subscriptions more than 500 videos. What I can't figure out is if the Signature Collection changes month to month, or if it's more like an AV version of Dr. Eliot's Five-Foot Shelf of Books.
They seem to go out of their way to hide the content's age. They don't come out and tell you the recording date, and one is left to read comments, guess based on the age of the earliest reviews, or google the product. However, alongside the decades-old content are some "newer" releases. The most recent releases, as found by sorting by Newest, I see America's Long Struggle Against Slavery ('https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/americas-long-struggle-against-slavery') was released in May 2020. Language A to Z ('https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/language-a-to-z-20010') is the newest content, as sorted, and based on the age of comments and product questions it appears to have been released sometime in October or November of 2020. However, additional digging revealed that Language A to Z was re-released with a new SKU and the original release was removed, further obscuring its true age.
Service seems cool, but a bit overwhelming in terms of options. While some of the liberal arts content may have retained its value I would worry that listening to old content may promote ideas that are no longer held by modern experts in their fields. Even a 2-year-old science book is questionable reading, and I suspect that much of the arts have similar concerns.
Update: there’s a channel for that, actually.
When the big economies met for the World Economic Forum in Davos a couple of months ago, the Item #1 in their "Great Reset" plan was the following:
I may never understand the 'subscription pricing model' because of this math:
1,000,000 monthly subscribers x $7.99 = $7,990,000 per month
3,000,000 monthly subscribers x $3.99 = #11,970,000 per month
5,000,000 monthly subscribers x $2.99 = #14,950,000 per month
Maybe its the overhead to supply that many streams
Maybe there will never be enough monthly subscribers, regardless, of a lowest monthly price.