Apple claimed that its streaming service, AppleTV+ logged less than 20 million subscribers in the US and Canada as of July, according to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
Apple revealed the paltry subscriber numbers — which amount to only a small fraction of what Netflix and Disney have amassed — to the show biz union when it came time to pay its members, who make up its behind-the-scenes production crew.
The IATSE said that existing production contracts with Hollywood studios allow smaller streaming services with less than 20 million subscribers to pay workers less. A rep didn’t specify how much less but said it was a “meaningful difference.”
Apple didn’t return requests for comment.
The news is surprising on a few fronts. Apple has never before revealed subscriber numbers for its streaming service, which launched in 2019. Reports had grossly exaggerated the service’s subscriber count, estimating that the service had 40 million subscribers at the end of 2020.
What’s more, the iPhone-maker has poured billions of dollars into shows like “Ted Lasso” and “The Morning Show,” in an attempt to catch rivals like Netflix and Disney, which have over 200 million and 100 million subscribers, respectively. The numbers reveal just how far Apple has to go if it wants to become a meaningful player in the space.
A rep for the IATSE explained that under the current contract, high-budget productions intended for streaming can offer lower rates to workers if the streaming service has less than 20 million subscribers in the US and Canada, which is determined on July 1 every year.
Apple told IATSE that it had less than 20 million subscribers, a union rep said, adding that the IATSE is currently in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group representing Hollywood studios, over a new contract.
A source close to the IATSE complained that production contracts allowing smaller services to pay workers less are “outdated” and that those provisions were put into place around 2009 in order to help streaming get off the ground.
The source griped that it isn’t fair that employees are paid less for the same work on an Apple show than they are paid to do the same work on a Netflix show.
It’s ironic that Apple, one of the richest companies in the world is “taking advantage of this provision” when it is able to spend big bucks on shows, a source said.
Indeed, Apple shelled out a reported $15 million per episode on shows like “The Morning Show,” starring Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon, in order to shore up subscribers for its $4.99 a month service. Over the summer, The Post exclusively reported that AppleTV+ even bought a button on Roku’s remote in order to grow its customer base as free trials began expiring.
“Streaming is here. It’s not new media anymore,” said the source, who noted that it’s ridiculous that Apple won’t pay workers more.