Apple and Amazon Still Trumpet Streaming Success – Without Subscriber Numbers

Apple and Amazon’s quarterly financial results are becoming something of a guessing game for Wall Street analysts trying to size up who’s winning the streaming subscription war. Neither tech giant will budge on telling the public exactly how many paying streaming customers they have.

It’s become almost a parody of the old Mad Magazine comic strip “Spy vs. Spy,” pitting two adversaries against the other with enough equal firepower to blow each into smithereens. Amazon dangles that it has 153 million Prime subscribers, but won’t break down how many tap into video (even on average). Apple doesn’t even break out its streaming platform’s financial results, though its music streaming service clocks in at about 100 million subscribers annually.

On Thursday, Amazon reported a profit of $2.9 billion during the third quarter, down from $3.2 billion in the year-ago period. Revenue rose 15% to $127.1 billion during the quarter.

While the company continued to be mum on actual Prime Video data, Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky told analysts that its pricey “The Lord of the Rings” prequel series “The Rings of Power” drove “more Prime sign ups globally than any other original programming.” The company said that the limited series was closing in on 100 million viewers to date.

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Also during the last quarter, the raunchy anti-superhero show “The Boys” carried Prime Video’s success. The grisly dark comedy was Amazon’s standout hit, with more than 30 times the demand of the average series for the quarter, according to data from Parrot Analytics. “The Boys” was also the third most in-demand series overall in the U.S. in June. Now a flagship for the streamer, it has launched two spinoffs: an animated series dubbed “Diabolical” and a college-set series to premiere soon.

Apple, meanwhile, beat Wall Street projections for its fourth quarter quarter ended in September, despite worries that inflation would temper demand for its newest iPhone models. The tech giant reported sales of just over $90 billion during its fiscal fourth quarter, up 8% from the same period a year earlier. Profits hit $20.7 billion, a gain of just under 1% from last.

“Our record September quarter results continue to demonstrate our ability to execute effectively in spite of a challenging and volatile macroeconomic backdrop,” said Apple CFO Luca Maestri. He added that digital advertising and gaming were two areas “seeing some softness” in its Services unit, CFO Luca Maestri said on the earnings call.

Masteri said the company’s service segment — which includes paid subscriptions to products like Apple TV+ and the App Store — reported sales increased 5% to 19.2 billion. Apple said it now has 900 million paid subscriptions, but did not break those down between music or television.

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On the earnings call, CEO Tim Cook noted in prepared remarks that Apple TV+ continues to clean up during awards season, including the second-straight Emmy win for “Ted Lasso” in comedy. The company also should see more eyeballs on Apple video content as the company rolls out next week a next-generation Apple TV 4K streaming box.

“This quarter’s results reflect Apple’s commitment to our customers, to the pursuit of innovation, and to leaving the world better than we found it,” Cook said. “As we head into the holiday season with our most powerful lineup ever, we are leading with our values in every action we take and every decision we make.”

And many are looking to the two tech giants to continue to shake up the entertainment space. “Are you out of your mind?” one portfolio manager over a direct message on Twitter said. “Tim Cook can disrupt all of Hollywood with a signature.”

Both Apple and and Amazon have cash on hand — money just sitting around ready to be deployed — of a combined $300 billion. This means Apple and Amazon have more money saved up than a year’s worth of what Chile’s economy is expected to produce ($277 billion) or slightly less than Pakistan ($305 billion). By comparison, Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount and Fox are worth somewhere around $400 billion if you bought every company out on a dollar-for-share basis.

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