MLS Season Pass Sep 27, 2023; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Signs for AppleTV before the Campeones Cup between the Tigres UANL and the Los Angeles FC at BMO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The streaming revolution has seen its share of winners, especially when it comes to live sports viewership and subscribers. YouTube TV scored the NFL Sunday Ticket. Amazon has Thursday Night Football. Even Netflix is finally entering the fray when they take over the live rights to Monday Night Raw. These are the mega-tech companies that were always envisioned to lead us into the digital age. And then there’s Apple TV+… which nobody seems to be watching.

It seems almost inconceivable that for a global behemoth like Apple, its streaming service could be putting up such paltry numbers. And yet, that’s the reality.

Puck called Apple TV+’s struggles the “funniest and most underreported story in Hollywood.” As reported by Nielsen, the streaming viewership share for Apple TV+ sits at a microscopic .29% of the marketplace. To put that number in perspective, YouTube and Netflix lead the way at 9.3% and 7.8% respectively.

Apple TV+ rates so low it doesn’t even make the Nielsen pie chart of top streaming services. It lags far behind outlets like Tubi, Max, Paramount+, and something called PlutoTV. You may have never heard of PlutoTV, but apparently, it streams “Gary Busey: Pet Judge.” Don’t lie to yourself, you know you want to find a way to watch that immediately.

While Netflix, Google, and Amazon have made huge deals to secure major live sports and entertainment properties, Apple has Major League Soccer and some Friday night MLB, and… that’s pretty much the whole list.

So what gives? How can Apple be so far off the pace? Perhaps some of it is the realities of the market and the fact that American consumers can only subscribe to so many platforms before they reach the breaking point. Perhaps it’s the fact that the library of content just isn’t there outside of Ted Lasso. And perhaps it’s the fact that Apple’s live sports portfolio is severely lacking compared to its competitors.

We know from the data that Peacock’s NFL Wild Card game drove a substantial number of long-term subscribers to the service. Paramount+ has been touting its live sports content. And the upcoming ESPN-Fox-WBD joint venture will shake up the marketplace even more.

The daunting task facing Apple is that there appears to be very little on the horizon that can change course, at least in sports. Apple hasn’t been mentioned as a serious contender for an NBA streaming package or anything else, really. Most notably in recent times, Apple could have saved the Pac-12 as its rights partner but ultimately passed. A 24/7 stream of ESPN: The Ocho could probably surpass Apple’s streaming viewership at this point.

But the longer that Apple goes with such low viewership numbers, the harder it’s going to be for a sports league to want to enter into a relationship with the streamer given its lack of market share.

Aside from a Hail Mary play like getting a huge piece of ESPN, Apple TV+ might just go down in history as the Apple Newton of streaming platforms.

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