Apple TV+ grows in streaming wars

When in March 2019 Apple announced the launch of Apple TV Plus, it fulfilled one of those rumors that a few months earlier seemed a bit far-fetched.

With a benchmark background bet, headed by names like Steven Spielberg (who had his not too favorable opinions towards streaming until then), J.J. Abrams, Ron Howard, or M. Night Shyamalan Apple seemed from the beginning to position itself as a platform where quality would take precedence over quantity. Nor did they have any other choice, given its very limited catalogue compared to Netflix or Disney Plus.

But it wasn’t just those big names that have worked best for Apple, but the character of a football coach that has served as a way into the awards so that now, when Apple’s service has released the first chapters of its most ambitious bet to date -Foundation- and is just a few months away from its second birthday, is going through its best moment.

The first installments of the adaptation of Asimov’s saga has received mostly positive reviews, something to which Ted Lasso’s success is added. both in terms of audience and awards. Apple TV Plus was along with Netflix the big name of the last Emmy Awards, winning 11 awards out of 35 nominations and taking its star comedy 7 awards under its arm, a record for a comedy series that has just released its second season.

Apple TV Plus is the first streaming service to win an Emmy in just two years of history

The series that follows an American football coach who without much of a gig ends up managing a football team in England took home awards for Best Comedy Series, Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Jason Sudeikis), Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Brett Goldstein) and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Hannah Waddingham).

There are a couple of important milestones here: Apple TV Plus is the first streaming service to win an Emmy in just two years of history and Ted Lasso is the first comedy to win the award in its category born directly on a platform.

Apple TV Plus: 20 million paying subscribers after giving it away for free to everyone

However, even if things now seem to be going from strength to strength for the Cupertino company with its service, the doubts were not unfounded. Apple began by offering a full year’s access to the platform for free for those who buy an iPhone, a Mac or a product in a certain price range of your brand.

This July, Apple ended such massive free trials and cut the period to three months. After that, Apple TV Plus costs $4.99 per month in the United States and the same amount in euros in Spain.

So, in the face of Netflix’s more than 200 million subscribers, there has always been a question about how many users (and especially paying ones, Apple TV Plus had). A few months ago, a report from The Information by insiders talked about 40 million users of which 20 million were paying users. More recently, and amid the secrecy of numbers that surrounds all streaming wars, Apple acknowledged to a Canadian trade union association that it had 20 million subscribers in the United States and Canada.

Without the need to chase Netflix

Apple TV Plus original catalogApple

Are there too many or too few? It’s few compared to the big names, but a number that may be relatively acceptable when compared to, for example, the 70 million users HBO Max had in July in the United States. And, more importantly, within the industry, not even Disney has as much economic lung as the world’s most valuable company does..

Apple, unlike Netflix, doesn’t have its main product on the platform, not by a long shot. Neither does Disney, despite its growing weight. In fact, if we were to look for a comparison on an economic level, Apple TV Plus is much more similar to Prime Video than any other platform in its business fit.


From an economic point of view, no platform can spend as much as Apple can

From a financial standpoint, as we say, no one can spend more than Apple, though its studio chiefs Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg haven’t thrown money around lightly. So far, Apple TV Plus’s annual content budget has hovered around $6.5 billion. A tiny amount compared to Netflix ($17 billion) and behind Amazon Prime Video ($9 billion), which surpassed Apple in 2021.

In other words, Apple’s service makes a loss and has a backstop to keep doing so while investing in future that they aim to have a big impact as it looks like they will after Foundation, Invasion, their alien invasion series, and the sci-fi movie with Tom Hanks Finch.

So what role does Apple TV Plus play within Apple?

Thanks to this, patience seems to be Apple’s favorite virtue and is reflected in their careful selection in content development. Their library is built entirely from originals, without any pre-existing catalog programming.

This strategy seems to be working when it comes to gaining impact at least. According to the analytics company Parrot Analytics, Apple TV Plus has seen audience demand for its original series grow.globally, on par with platforms like HBO Max and Disney Plus. Ted Lasso is their flagship series, but The Morning Show is also performing according to their analysis (which combines interest in search and with different patterns), as well as other series like See with Jason Momoa or For All Mankind.

Apple’s strategy is often compared to HBO’s in its original cable format. Few series, but careful to mark their own stamp. The question is perhaps not whether it will get it right, but how much money Apple is willing to burn on its service until it becomes profitable on its own. For now, it doesn’t seem to be in a hurry.