That’s the estimate of Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi, who arrived at the figure through a series of calculations based on the tech giant’s fourth-quarter report and commentary from management. The analyst maintains a “market perform,” or neutral, rating on Apple stock.
In a note to clients, Sacconaghi said the low adoption of Apple TV+, even among those who can get it for free, could have three plausible explanations. Scenario 1: Apple hasn’t succeeded in its promotion of the service, as it juggles it with marketing a range of other new services and devices. Scenario 2: Apple may be “conservatively estimating its ‘take rate’ or deliberately scaling its promotions of TV+ slowly to mitigate the negative accounting impact of its early ramp,” the analyst wrote. Scenario 3: Apple TV+ is simply “failing to resonate with customers, perhaps due to its limited content offerings.”
Apple has an installed base of 1.5 billion devices. It has offered the free year of Apple TV+ for those who bought the newest editions of devices like the iPhone and iPad between September 10 and November 1 of last year. The offer officially expired last Friday. Regular subscriptions are $5 a month. The company has not divulged any subscriber data for the service, which launched last November 1.
For context, Disney reported drawing 10 million sign-ups for Disney+ on its first day of U.S. availability last November. Netflix has 167 million global subscribers, with a bit more than one-third of those in the U.S.
Apple TV+ has no library of licensed fare, unlike fellow new rivals to longtime streaming leaders Netflix and Amazon being launched by Disney, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia. New shows like See, The Morning Show and Dickinson garnered mixed reviews and on the film side the company has had high-profile stumbles with the rollouts of The Banker and On the Record.
An Apple rep did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Bernstein report.
“We encourage investors to closely monitor the adoption of TV+ going forward,” Sacconaghi wrote. “While Apple’s management has indicated it won’t disclose subscriber numbers this year, the implied take rate of TV+ in FY20 will nonetheless provide some indication of potential acceptance of the service, as well as Apple’s ability to successfully launch meaningful new revenue-generating services.”
Apple has said its total number of subscribers — across TV, videogame, music and other verticals — is 480 million and will hit 600 million by year-end. The company has been emphasizing services, where economic trends are more favorable, over the past couple of years as sales of the flagship iPhone have started to wane.