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Apple TV+ Has Fewer Than 20 Million Subscribers as of July According to TV, Movie Workers’ Union

Aubrey Chorpenning

In July, Apple TV+ had less 20 million subscribers in the United States and Canada, according to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) which represents TV and movie workers, as first spotted by CNBC. However, analytics firm Ampere Analysis previously predicted that Apple TV+ had 40 million subscribers at the end of 2020.

Apple TV+ has been seen as a straggler among its competitors, like Netflix (about 74 million subscribers in North America in Q2) and HBO Max (47 million domestic subscribers in Q2). Having less than 20 million subscribers may be working to Apple’s benefit, however.

The contract between Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and IATSE currently allows streaming services with fewer than 20 million subscribers to pay workers lower rates. Additionally, streamers get lower labor rates than film and television productions. An Apple spokesperson told CNBC that the company pays similar rates to other streaming services.

“Workers on certain ‘new media’ streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters,” IATSE said in a press release.

The fact that a large, successful company like Apple is getting discounts on labor rates has upset union members. This contract was first negotiated in 2009 when streaming was still very new. Now, the union believes that the streaming industry is well-established and no longer requires these discounts.

“These issues are real for the workers in our industry, and change is long overdue. However, the explosion of streaming combined with the pandemic has elevated and aggravated working conditions, bringing 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers covered by these contracts to a breaking point,” an IATSE statement said. “We risked our health and safety all year, working through the Pandemic to ensure that our business emerged intact. Now, we cannot and will not accept a deal that leaves us with an unsustainable outcome.”

Since the streaming service launched in fall 2019, Apple has kept its subscriber numbers under wraps. Further complicating the equation, the company offers free Apple TV+ subscriptions with the purchase of a new Apple product. Because of this, it’s unclear how many subscribers are paying for the service versus using a free trial. It’s possible Apple is using the paid sub-20-million number in its negotiations with the union, while the free users could boost user numbers higher.

As for the future of the streaming service, sources recently revealed the company plans to The Information, noting that Apple will be focusing on original content and will release a new title each week. The company is also reportedly increasing its marketing budget to reach larger audiences. Apple’s plans for more original content could be affected by union negotiations and impending changes.

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