In the COVID-19 Era, Where’s Apple TV+?

As the spread of the coronavirus forces millions to “shelter-in-place” globally, home entertainment distribution, including subscription streaming video, is expected to surge as households stream increasing amounts of content.

While Disney+ launched operations in select European countries, and Netflix shows no signs of slowing as its original shows (i.e. “Tiger King”) continue to dominate viewer lists, Apple’s branded SVOD service, Apple TV+, remains largely in the shadows.

Recent data from Google Trends suggests consumer searches for Apple TV+ remain largely non-existent.

Launched on Nov. 2, 2019, the Apple TV+ offers a slate of original programs such as the Golden Globes-winning “The Morning Show,” with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, and Oprah Winfrey’s “Oprah’s Book Club,” and “Oprah Talks COVID-19,” among others.

Yet, some analysts contend the service, which is being given away with new Apple hardware purchases, and costs $4.99 monthly to others, isn’t gaining much traction compared to Disney+, Netflix and Hulu.

Ampere Analysis suggested Apple TV+ had 33 million “subs” early on, an impressive number that the London-based research firm attributed largely to free trials.

While Disney+ has more than 30 million subs, the majority are also free 12-month trials through third-party promotions such as Verizon. Netflix, by comparison, no longer includes trial memberships in its subscriber count.

Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi suggests that fewer than 10 million people have signed up for the free 12-month Apple TV+ subscription in the company’s most-recent fiscal quarter.

Sacconaghi characterized the tally as “surprisingly low” for a brand as well-known as Apple, which hasn’t officially released any OTT video subscriber data.

Research firm Antenna said Apple realized a 10% spike in new subs from March 14 – 16 as the coronavirus spread in the United States. The firm said the increase was the lowest of any major streaming service.

Apple reportedly will spend $6 billion on original content in 2020, buttressing a slate that currently includes “Dickinson,” “See,” “Ghostwriter,” “For All Mankind,” “Helpsters,” “Hala,” and “Little America,” among others.

“[Apple is] still not in [OTT video] with both feet,” media executive Barry Diller reportedly told a podcast. “They’ve put some capital in, but relatively little [for Apple]. They’re not making a major effort.”

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter contends that despite a major marketing effort around Apple TV+, the finished product thus far has been underwhelming.

“Apple TV+ only had a handful of shows at launch and no catalog,” Pachter wrote in a post.

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