Apple told the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees — which is on the cusp of a member vote to authorize a strike — that Apple TV Plus had fewer than 20 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada as of July 2021, according to the union.
By claiming it had under the 20 million-subscriber threshold for the U.S. and Canada, under the union’s current contract Apple is able to pay discounted rates to production crew members than streaming providers with more than 20 million like Netflix and Hulu, according to an IATSE rep, confirming an earlier CNBC report. Apple has said it pays crew members in line with other streamers.
IATSE’s agreement on reduced production rates for streaming video providers with under 20 million subs was originally struck in 2009, when the streaming industry was still nascent. In its current contract fight with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the union is seeking to eliminate that discount.
What’s worth noting: Apple TV Plus is available in more than 100 countries and regions, while the figure of fewer than 20 million subscribers is only for the U.S. and Canada. Apple has never publicly revealed subscriber numbers for Apple TV Plus, which it launched in November 2019.
This July, Apple ended free trials of Apple TV Plus for many of its device customers, some of whom had not been paying for the service since its debut. Apple TV Plus regularly costs $4.99/month. The tech giant still offers three months free access to Apple TV Plus to customers who purchase a new iPhone or another eligible Apple device.
IATSE had been negotiating a new contract with the AMPTP (whose members include Apple) before talks broke down. As IATSE has set an Oct. 1 strike authorization vote, it has received support from other entertainment unions including SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, East, and the Teamsters as well as celebrities.
Among other things, IATSE wants higher rates on streaming projects. The AMPTP said that its most recent offer to IATSE included a provision to raise minimum rates on average by 18% on certain types of “New Media” productions.
In a response to AMPTP earlier this week, IATSE said in part, “It is incomprehensible that the AMPTP, an ensemble that includes media megacorporations collectively worth trillions of dollars, claims it cannot provide behind-the-scenes crews with basic human necessities like adequate sleep, meal breaks, and living wages.”
At the 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards earlier this month, Apple took home 10 trophies, including seven for Jason Sudeikis’ “Ted Lasso.”