Apple TV Plus subscriber numbers less than 20M, firm reportedly told union

Apple said there were fewer than 20 million North American subscribers to its streaming service, affecting the amount paid to workers on film crews, says a report.

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Ed is a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world who enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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Edward Moyer
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A person wearing a mask and face shield uses a clapboard during the filming of a TV series in Times Square this past March.

A person wearing a mask and face shield uses a clapboard during the filming of a TV series in Times Square this past March.

Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Apple reportedly told a labor union that its Apple TV Plus streaming service had less than 20 million North American subscribers as of July, meaning the company could pay production crews on its shows lower rates than those shelled out by services like Netflix.

Apple hasn't made TV Plus subscriber numbers public, but a spokesman for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees said Apple revealed the US and Canada figures to the union, CNBC reported late Friday.

The union, which represents set builders, camera operators and other such workers, is now in contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which CNBC noted counts Apple among its members. Under the existing contract, big-budget shows meant for a streaming service can pay crew workers less if that service has fewer than 20 million subscribers.

The current contract says streaming profitability is "presently uncertain," so workers on streaming shows aren't treated the same as crews for traditional TV shows and movies, according to CNBC. But the IATSE argues that streaming has become an established business and pay for production workers should be more equitable.

"Workers on certain 'new media' streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters," the union said in a release Tuesday. Union workers are mulling whether to go on strike, CNBC said.

Apple didn't respond to a request for comment Saturday, but it told CNBC that the company pays rates comparable to those of leading streaming services.

As of July, Netflix had about 74 million subscribers in the US and Canada, and Disney Plus reportedly had about 38 million North American subscribers.

Apple TV Plus' lineup of high-end originals has grown to more than five dozen titles since the streaming service launched almost two years ago. Shows include Emmy-winning Ted Lasso; The Morning Show, a big-budget drama starring A-listers Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon; Jason Momoa's dystopian fantasy See; and a 10-episode adaptation of Isaac Asimov's weighty Foundation saga.