How Many People Are Watching Apple TV+ Anyway?


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During Apple’s second-quarter earnings call July 27, executives declared Apple TV+ a success. The streamer’s 35 Emmy nominations, CEO Tim Cook said, “speaks to the quality of our programming and an enthusiastic reception from customers and critics alike” while the Season 2 premiere of “Ted Lasso” saw the show “continue to win over viewers with its heartwarming message about the power of community, compassion, and hope.”

As to how many subscribers are watching “Ted Lasso” win them over — well, that’s hard to say. The company’s services division, which includes Apple TV+ as well as music, games, and other subscription products, counts 700 million paid subscribers. That’s up over 25 percent from last year, and nearly four times the number of paid subscriptions four years ago. Apple TV+ launched nearly two years ago, which might suggest it’s making an impact in the company’s subscription business. To what extent, only Apple knows for sure.

As consumer attention moves from theaters and TV to streaming platforms, third-party viewer tracking has not followed suit. Streaming executives decline to make that data available, often even to their creators. Netflix likes to report viewership on only select titles; it also counts anything watched for at least two minutes as a view. Still, like Disney and HBO Max, Netflix dutifully reports its subscriber numbers every quarter, offering a valuable snapshot on how its reach and cultural resonance changes over time. Even Amazon, which bundles its streaming offering with Prime, recently reported that 175 million people streamed Prime Video content in the last year.

Apple remains an outlier. As it spends billions on building out its film and TV operation, there’s no hard numbers — only third-party data based on projections and estimates.

“When the story is good, Apple talks about it,” said Thomas Hughes, CEO for Americas at Vuulr, who previously was head of worldwide digital distribution at Lionsgate. Hughes pointed to Tuesday’s earnings call, where Apple execs broke out iPhone sales figures from the rest of its device revenue.

“Is Apple wrong to hide the numbers? No,” Hughes said. “Apple has a fiduciary…