According to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), a labour union that represents behind-the-scenes production workers for TV and film, Apple claimed that its TV+ streaming service had less than 20 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada at the end of Q2 2021 — reports CNBC.
With a subscriber count under 20 million, Apple was able to pay off-camera production workers lower rates than other platforms like Netflix, which disclosed 209 million subscribers in its Q2 results, and Disney+, which has claimed 119 million.
Apple has been incredibly tight-lipped about subscriber counts for its streaming service, which is why these numbers come as quite the surprise. Apple TV+ launched almost two years ago in the fall of 2019, and has been ranked 6th among streaming platforms by analysts in terms of (estimated, in the case of Apple’s service) subscriber counts.
Under the IATSE’s current contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, high-budget productions for streaming platforms can pay lower wages to production crew if the service has less than 20 million subscribers in the North American region.
Streaming platforms disclose subscriber counts to the IATSE on July 1 every year. According to a union spokesperson, Apple told the IATSE that TV+ had less than 20 million subscribers at the end of Q2.
An Apple spokesperson said that the company’s pay for production crew is in line with leading streaming services, but declined to comment on subscriber counts for TV+.
“Workers on certain ‘new media’ streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters,” said the IATSE in a press release as the institution continues to negotiate for better pay and working conditions, and considers going on strike.
The IATSE and its plans for a potential strike have been garnering support from celebrities, actors, and others in the space.
Apple has reportedly spent up to $15 million USD per episode on originals like The Morning Show to beef up TV+’s offerings with premium content, and tens of millions on acquiring movies like Cherry to populate the platform’s catalog.
Apple TV+ is provided for free for up to three months to buyers of select Apple products, while also included in the company’s Apple One subscription bundles. We may never truly know Apple TV+ subscriber numbers, but if you’re deep into the company’s services ecosystem, odds are you’re paying for it in some shape or form.