Apple TV+ may be inching even closer to a future with ad-supported optionality, following in the recent footsteps of previous holdouts Netflix and Disney+.
The Information reported Friday that Apple TV+ hired Lauren Fry, a TV and digital-video advertising executive, and that Fry would be responsible for helping build a video-advertising business. In the near term, that could simply mean beefing up its ad business on MLB games or during halftime and pre-shows for MLS matches. Apple TV+ recently launched an ambitious MLS Season Pass package, streaming every soccer game you can handle for an annual fee. Commercial breaks are baked into live sporting events.
But many media analysts believe Apple TV+ would be foolish not to go farther. The Apple streaming service is the only major streamer without an ad-supported pricing tier (you can get ad-free Apple TV+ for $6.99 monthly, which rose for the first time since 2019 back in October), and there’s reason to suspect the baseball and soccer spots are just the beginning.
According to The Information, Fry’s title remains unclear, but she previously was chief revenue officer for Simulmedia, a digital video ad-tech firm, and also held positions at AT&T and Comcast.
A spokesperson for Apple TV+ declined IndieWire’s request for comment on this story.
Adding a cheaper ad-supported tier can bring mixed results. Sure, Apple would certainly bring new eyeballs to “Ted Lasso” and “Severance,” but it could also spur downgrades from existing ad-free users. Streaming these days is more about revenue than subscribers, and advertising revenue can offset lighter subscription fees. (It’s all about the ARPU — or the average revenue per user.)
Here we should point out that with a market cap of $2.32 trillion, Apple is literally the largest company in the world. Apple makes its real money off of iPhones, so maintaining its streaming service as a loss leader — to this point or even beyond — is not unreasonable.
Currently, one can already watch MLB games on Friday nights for free without an Apple TV+ subscription — though that could change. MLS Season Pass is available as a standalone service, so ads on a cheaper Apple TV+ tier could bring new signups into that specific ecosystem.
Bloomberg reported last August that Apple’s ad-business, showing ads on your phone, brings in $4 billion of revenue each year. Having video advertising, which is considered more effective, would only boost that tally.