Big Tech streamers obscure what counts as a “subscriber”

Streaming bundles complicate writer residuals

Together with

The Future. In the wake of the WGA scoring a subscriber-based residual, what counts as a subscriber on bundle-based streamers may be hard to pin down. While the streamers are required to share how many subscribers their services have, Big Tech players like Apple and Amazon aren’t so easy to decipher because their services are add-ons to their main, non-entertainment services. As more companies look to bundle their offerings with brands outside of Hollywood, the problem may only deepen… and require an updated residual equation.

User, viewer, mystery
Counting streaming subscribers may be a lot more complex than simple addition.

  • While pure-play streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ have clear-cut subscriber counts, those for Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime are wrapped up in the company’s bundle of other subscription offerings that are the main reason people sign up.
  • That means subscriber counts may be insanely high, but most users may not actually be watching the films and shows offered as part of the subscription.
  • That may make it difficult for the WGA to collect its new residual on projects created for those streamers because they’ll need to be watched by at least 20% of the platform’s subscribers — a benchmark a majority of the titles may not hit.
  • Ultimately, inflating those subscriber numbers will be more beneficial to Amazon and Apple than to writers.

Of course, the WGA is aware of the issue, putting a provision in the new contract that the union and the companies will engage in “good faith” to break down what the subscriber breakdowns are. 

And if they can’t agree (which, as this past summer has made loud and clear, is entirely possible), an arbiter will be brought in. It’s not the first time the WGA has done that… and that’s proven also to be a winning strategy.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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