Less than 20 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada were registered to Apple’s TV+ service as of July, making it shell out lower rates to behind-the-scenes employees as compared to streamers who post more subscriptions, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, a TV workers union, said.
Unveiled in the fall of 2019, the Apple TV+ streaming service subscribers have never been disclosed by Apple. Analysts are hesitant to place their estimates but several claims that its scale lags behind others like Netflix and Disney+ which said they had 209 million and 116 million subscribers as of Q2, respectively.
The discounted rate being paid by Apple, despite being considered as one of the admired companies in the world, stressed the concerns among those who work in Hollywood. It also triggers rage among union members who can think of a strike to demand improved pay and working set-ups.
The present contract states that lower rates can be offered to workers on high-budget productions up for streaming if the number of subscribers in the U.S. and Canada is lower than 20 million. According to a union spokesman, Apple told IATSE that its subscribers are less than 20 million.
Presently, the union is discussing with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, of which Apple is also a member, for a new contract. The industry group’s spokesperson, however, said that the alliance discusses for all of its members and does not take away from certain companies.
The spokesperson for Apple said the company compensates workers with rates according to leading streaming services, without giving any remark on the number of its subscribers.
Productions created for streaming services are covered with less firm labor terms as compared to traditional movies and TV shows, the present contract indicated. A contract reviewed by CNBC explained that this is because streaming profitability is “presently uncertain” and more flexibility is being demanded by the productions.
The union leaders, however, say streaming is not specifically a new form of media, CNBC reported.
“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 IATSE said through a press release.