The Streaming Services Most Vulnerable to a Strike

Cheyne Gateley/VIP+

The threat of a major production stoppage looms as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) negotiates with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for more favorable working conditions. 

IATSE, a union representing over 150,000 crew members in the U.S. and Canada, is pushing for the AMPTP, a body representing the major entertainment studios and networks, for changes including longer rest periods between productions, greater assurances that meal breaks will be honored and higher pay for work on video streaming projects.  

It was never guaranteed that a strike would even occur. But now that IATSE has set a deadline (Monday 10/18 at 12:01 a.m.) for the AMPTP to agree to negotiations, a Hollywood strike has never felt more imminent.  

An IATSE strike would effectively shut down the vast majority of film and TV production across the U.S., with productions from major streamers (including Apple TV+ and Netflix, for example) being included. 

But Apple TV+, which launched in November 2019, stands out as the video streaming service most likely to be hurt by a stoppage in productions. As of August 2021, the video streaming service only had 18 movies and 54 seasons of TV shows on its U.S. catalog, according to Ampere Analysis. That catalog is far smaller than that of Disney+, HBO Max and Peacock, which all launched between November 2019 and the first half of 2020.  

Showtime and Starz look relatively exposed to a strike as well when considering their relatively small TV libraries when compared to Disney+, HBO Max or Peacock. But consider that the premium networks (i.e. HBO, Showtime and Starz) have agreements with IATSE that don’t expire until the end of 2022. So Showtime and Starz would not see a disruption in their productions in the same way Apple TV+ would if talks between IATSE and AMPTP don’t materialize. 

The looming strike highlights the risks of a streamer like Apple TV+ that refuses to make big plays for rerun hits like “Friends” or “Seinfeld.” This aversion to licensing explains why nearly 80% of Apple TV+’s U.S. catalog is original content, a figure significantly higher than that of its major streaming competitors. 

Apple TV+ since launch has focused a lot on prestige plays (see: Emmy winner “The Morning Show” and Sundance purchase “CODA”), and that very strategy is incongruous with trying to quickly amass a big library. But Apple is now focusing on bigger-budgeted TV projects like “Foundation” that may help it appeal to global audiences in addition to critics. 

Moreover, The Information recently reported that Apple TV+ is looking to double its output of content in 2022 after finding success with its critic- and crowd-pleasing series “Ted Lasso.” 

But those plans would be jeopardized by a strike. As of September, Apple had 70 commissioned TV series in production globally, with most of those TV series being produced in North America, according to Ampere. 

Other streamers would certainly be set back by an IATSE strike as well. Netflix and Amazon both had over 100 TV series in production in North America as of September, for example, and are both looking to accelerate output after COVID production delays. 

As Netflix’s global head of TV, Bela Bajaria, recently said, “A strike in any place when it comes to production, we keep an eye on.”