CNBC has reported that in the course contract negotiations between the major Hollywood unions for backstage crews, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) revealed that, as recently as July, Apple claimed it had less than 20 million subscribers to its Apple TV_ streaming service in North America.
Since launching its subscription streaming service in November 2019, Apple hasn’t revealed subscriber numbers. With Apple giving away access to the $4.99-a-month SVoD away to those who bought iPhones and other Apple gadgets for the first 20 months of Apple TV Plus’ existence, several well-regarded research firms have pegged Apple TV+ at around 40 million subscribers, many of them on via these promotions.
At that level, Apple was able to pay lower rates than larger streaming services (and the major studios) for everything from costume designers and makeup artists, to camera operators and production designers. A union spokesperson told CNBC that NBCUniversal’s Peacock and ViacomCBS’ Paramount+ also fall under the 20-million subscriber threshold.
It may be the sub 20 million number only counts users who are paying for the Apple TV+ service, and not the millions who are still on promotion.
The current contract between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and IATSE was negotiated in 2009 at a time when streaming media was seen as a nascent business model with an uncertain future. Streaming companies have enjoyed reduced labour rates compared to film and television productions. However, the union is looking to eliminate those discounts in its current negotiations.