Stunning success of Ted Lasso could force Apple to hike the pay of union employees
Apple has never revealed the number of subscribers it has signed up for TV+. The feature, which launched in the fall of 2019, is $4.99 a month after a seven-day free trial. If you buy an Apple device, you get three free months of service. According to CNBC, Apple told the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees that as of July 1st, it has fewer than 20 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada.
Apple told the IATSE that it has only 20 million subscribers to TV+
The union represents those behind-the-scenes workers in the television and movie industries such as though who build sets and operate cameras. Because Apple has fewer than 20 million TV+ subscribers in North America, it is allowed to pay these workers lower rates than those who do the same work for streamers with more subscribers than Apple.
Jason Sudakis won an Emmy for his portrayal of soccer coach Ted Lasso on Apple's TV+ original
Thus, Apple is allowed to pay these workers less than the amount received by workers doing the same jobs for Netflix (209 million subscribers as of Q2 2021) and Disney+ which reportedly counted 116 million subscribers during the same quarter. Union members are reportedly considering going on strike as the most valuable publicly traded company in the world is paying wages at lower rates than other companies that are not worth as much as Apple is.
The current contract allows companies producing high-budget films or television shows meant to be streamed to viewers, to pay lower rates to workers if the streaming service has fewer than 20 million subscribers in North America on July 1st. Apple told the IATSE that it had less than 20 million subscribers by the deadline, according to a union spokesman. Apple wouldn't comment on specific subscriber numbers but did say that it pays its employees in line with the leading streaming services.
Productions intended for streaming have labor terms that are less onerous than those for traditional television shows and movies with theatrical releases. That is because the profitability of streaming content is "presently uncertain" and productions meant to be streamed need to be more flexible. This is stated in the current contract which was viewed by CNBC.
But as you might expect, union leaders disagree pointing out that streaming is no longer a new untested platform. The union leaders say that companies financing the production of streaming content should pay employees close to what they receive when working on traditional televised productions and those films meant for theatrical release.
While TV+ isn't exactly tearing the cover off of the ball according to Apple, last week it became the first streaming service to win an Emmy in a program category in just its second year of eligibility. Ted Lasso won four Emmy Awards during last week's televised event including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in A Comedy Series.
The show, starring Jason Sudeikis, is about a U.S. college football coach who won a Division II NCAA title. The coach is subsequently hired to coach an English soccer team even though he knows nothing about the sport. Ironically, if the success of the show leads to more subscribers, Apple could end up being forced to pay more to its behind-the-scenes-employees.
A strike is being planned by the IATSE
In a press release issued this past week, the IATSE said that "Workers on certain 'new media' streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters." Negotiations with producers on a new contract have hit a brick wall and on Monday the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) said that it will not present the IATSE with any more counteroffers.
IATSE is putting into motion a plan to go on strike and on October 1st 150,000 ballots seeking the authorization to go on strike to members will be disseminated. Among the issues that the IATSE wants to resolve is the difference in pay for those working on certain streamed productions.