As Apple Services Cross 1 Billion Paid Subs, Still No Tally of TV+ Members

Apple shared Thursday that over 1 billion people — combined — now subscribe to its services. That encompasses Apple Music, Apple iCloud, Apple Care, Apple Arcade, Fitness+, News+, Apple TV+, and more.

Sounds like a landmark — only we still don’t know how many people subscribe to Apple TV+. We’re pretty sure it’s nowhere near 1 billion.

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Apple TV+ has not reported official numbers since its launch in 2019. More recent estimates from third parties peg it as having roughly 25 million global subscribers. Many more access it through promotional windows, such as when you buy a new iPhone or tablet. As IndieWire reported in January, IATSE’s streaming deal suggests that TV+ has over 20 million subs.

So while 20 million-25 million would be a small fraction of the 1 billion subs reported today, it’s clear that Apple Services is a huge part of Apple’s core business. Services saw record growth in the last quarter; since last year, Apple nearly doubled its subs.

Apple’s services sector accounted for $21.2 billion in net sales during the tech giant’s quarter ending July 1. That’s more than a quarter of Apple’s overall Q3 sales of $81.7 billion. In net sales, the combined services sector in Q3 adds up to slightly more than Apple got in selling Macs, iPads, and wearables like Apple Watches or AirPods combined.

On the company’s earnings call Thursday, Apple CFO Luca Maestri said the services sector saw growth in all services category, but didn’t break down any specific numbers. Both he and CEO Tim Cook indicated that many Apple customers engage with some of the free versions of these services and the more and better original content it offers, the company expects to attract more paying users.

LUSAIL CITY, QATAR - DECEMBER 18: Lionel Messi of Argentina lifts trophy wearing a Bisht - traditional Arab robed as he lifts the world cup trophy surrounded by team mates uring the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Lionel Messi of Argentina lifts the FIFA World Cup trophyGetty Images

Beyond the shows and movies, which Cook touted as earning “more than 1500 nominations and 370 wins” among awards, Apple made significant investments in TV+ with deals with MLB, MLS, and Canal+. Cook added that “we’re beating our expectation in terms of subscribers” and the arrival of player Lionel Messi for Inter Miami “helped us out there.” Apple plans to invest $2.5 billion in global MLS rights over the next decade.

“We’re focused on original content with TV+,” Cook said on Thursday’s call. “We’re all about giving storytellers the venue to tell great stories and hopefully think a little deeper.”

If you’re a writer or actor currently on the picket lines and shouting at your iPhone that you’re the one who drives that original storytelling, know the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes did not come up on Apple’s earnings call.

If the writers and actors get their way, Apple may not be able to go much longer without disclosing the specific number of people signed up for Apple TV+. As one analyst speculated to IndieWire, a company like Netflix could very well force the rest of the industry’s hand. Writers and actors are fighting for the data transparency that’s essential in calculating residuals. SAG-AFTRA wants a streaming revenue sharing model in which actors would receive a small percentage of streaming revenue brought in from a hit show like “Ted Lasso.”

That may not be farfetched. The Athletic recently reported that Apple offered Messi a share of revenue generated by new subscribers as a means of coaxing him to sign with MLS. (MLS Season Pass is offered as a standalone subscription and does not require someone to sign up for Apple TV+).

Apple is not the only streamer that doesn’t disclose subscriber numbers. Amazon doesn’t break down how many people are Prime subscribers solely because they’ve signed up to watch “The Rings of Power” or Thursday Night Football through Prime Video versus as a means of getting fast delivery. But Apple is the only service that doesn’t yet have ads or a cheaper ad-tier (though it could be inching toward that). Sharing data with advertisers would put more pressure on Apple to disclose subscriber numbers and give the industry a sense of just how many people watch these shows.

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