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So Far, Apple Is Losing the Streaming War

By Prosper Junior Bakiny – Feb 20, 2020 at 6:30AM

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Apple TV+ isn't keeping up with the competition.

Apple (AAPL 2.56%) is one of the most valuable brands in the world, and the company has achieved this largely thanks to its signature iPhone. Over the years, the tech giant has tried to broaden its revenue base, and has had success.

For instance, the company's wearables business (which includes devices like the Apple Watch and AirPods) has been booming of late. But not all of Apple's ventures have been home runs. Case in point: In November 2019, the company introduced its streaming service, Apple TV+, and about three months later, it seems to be underperforming versus some of its peers. Here are some indicators. 

A person holding a remote control and choosing among dozens of streaming shows.

Image source: Getty Images.

Promotional activity is driving user growth

According to the research firm Ampere Analysis, Apple TV+ has around 33 million users. That seems like a lot, especially considering the service wasn't released that long ago. 

However, while there might indeed be 33 million people with an Apple TV+ subscription, most of them likely benefited from the fact that Apple was offering it free to those who bought one of its devices around the time of the launch of Apple TV+. There's no guarantee that these subscribers will pay $4.99 per month for the service when the promotion ends.

The competition is thriving

Meanwhile, Disney's (DIS 4.44%) Disney+ is on a roll. The streaming service managed to garner 10 million paid subscribers right out of the gate, and during the company's first-quarter earnings conference call earlier this month, CEO Robert Iger revealed that Disney+ had about 28.6 million paid subscribers.

Given that Disney will launch its streaming service in several international markets starting next month (including the U.K., France, Spain, and Germany), the number of Disney+ paid subscriptions could continue growing at a nice clip. Note that Disney also controls Hulu and owns ESPN+, which have 30.7 million and 7.6 million paid subscribers, respectively. 

Netflix (NFLX 0.71%), the current leader in the streaming industry, is also making some headway, particularly in international markets. During the fourth quarter, it added 8.76 million net subscribers, better than the company itself had anticipated. But Netflix only added 420,000 subscribers in North America, short of the 600,000 it had predicted. It added about 8.33 million subscribers in international markets. The company's Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) segment is performing particularly well.

Looking ahead

The launch of Apple TV+ was not cheap for Apple by a long shot. The company reportedly spent around $6 billion on content alone. That's not a small amount even for a company the size of Apple, and it does not include the money Apple spent on things like marketing. Given that the company seems to be gaining subscribers mostly by offering free trials, while Disney+ and Netflix are gaining millions of paid subscribers, it doesn't seem like Apple is getting a good return on investment so far.

Still, it's been only three months since Apple TV+ was launched, and there's still plenty of time for Apple to capture a decent share of this competitive market. The future could certainly be bright for Apple TV+, but for now, Apple is losing the streaming war. The company is performing well on other fronts, however, and is still a tech stock worth serious consideration. 

Prosper Junior Bakiny has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple, Netflix, and Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short April 2020 $135 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Apple Inc. Stock Quote
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