Apple hasn’t published official subscriber numbers for its TV+ streaming service since it launched in 2019, but it may be smaller than analysts previously estimated. According to CNBC, the tech giant told the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees that TV+ has fewer than 20 million subscribers in the US and Canada. A few months ago, Statista published an estimate that puts the service’s subscriber number to 40 million by the end of 2020 in the US alone.
The firm admitted, however, that the estimate does not “necessarily reveal how many paying subscribers use the service.” CNBC didn’t say whether the 20 million subscribers the company declared were paying customers either. It also didn’t mention how many of those got their subscriptions for free: Apple used to give away year-long subscriptions to customers who purchase new iPhones, iPads and Macs, but it shortened the offer to three months back in June.
According to the report, having less than 20 million subscribers allowed Apple to pay production crew lower rates than bigger streamers. Under the current contract seen by CNBC, streaming services can pay their employees lower rates if they report less than 20 million subscribers to the IATSE every July 1st, because streaming profitability is “presently uncertain.” The union is negotiating for a better contract, though, since current rules don’t make an exception for tech giants like Apple. It also argues that streaming can no longer be considered “new media.”
An Apple rep told CNBC that the company pays in line with leading streaming services but refused to comment on the claimed subscriber number. 20 million is but a fraction of the number of subscribers the biggest streaming services have: Netflix claimed 208 million subscribers in April, while Disney+ claimed over 100 million back in March.
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