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Apple TV+ growth has 'flat-lined' as users say service lacks value: UBS

Apple TV+'s (AAPL) "Ted Lasso" may be making its triumphant return next month — but a new survey hints the Emmy Award-winning series has not been enough to boost the streaming service's clout with consumers.

According to UBS Evidence Lab's fourth annual video streaming survey, which polled 1,200 Americans on their video viewing habits, Apple TV+ is falling behind relative to competitors and "appears to have flat-lined."

"Just ~22% [of] iPhone owners subscribed to AppleTV+, essentially the same as the Jan 2020 data prior to Covid," UBS analyst David Vogt wrote in a new note published on Tuesday. "While the adoption of Apple TV+ reached 26% in the Jan 2021 survey as customers consumed more media at home, adoption has backslid over the past several years."

Vogt noted the negative trend was not unique to Apple TV+ with competitors like Netflix (NFLX), Amazon Prime Video (AMZN), and Hulu (DIS) also seeing iPhone penetration levels dip since 2020, when pandemic restrictions ballooned the value of streaming companies across the board.

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While the trend was largely flat to negative for most services, HBO Max adoption among iPhone users increased to 35% in UBS' latest survey, up from the 19% seen in January 2021. HBO Max has leaned on popular original series to help boost subscriptions over the past year, including "The Last of Us," "The White Lotus," and "House of the Dragon."

Apple TV+'s 'Ted Lasso' season 3 to debut March 15 (Courtesy: Apple TV+)
Apple TV+'s 'Ted Lasso' season 3 to debut March 15 (Courtesy: Apple TV+)

Despite an overall pullback in adoption rates, survey respondents branded Apple TV+ as the weakest link, citing other platforms as a better value due to its overall lack of programming.

"Just 5% of respondents cited AppleTV+ as the 'best value for the money' service, likely given the narrow focus on original content," Vogt wrote.

Netflix scored the highest, with 27% of respondents citing it as the "best value for money," topping both Amazon Prime Video and Hulu at 12%.

(Source: UBS)
(Source: UBS)

Notably, Netflix is in the midst of a controversial password sharing crackdown, which has angered users as prices continue to balloon. The cost of Netflix's standard plan is currently $15.49 a month in the U.S. with its premium plan reaching as much as $19.99 a month — one of the most expensive ad-free subscriptions on the market.

Other ad-free subscription costs include Hulu's $14.99/month plan, Disney+'s $10.99/month tier, HBO Max's $15.99/month offering, and Paramount+'s $9.99/month option.

Apple TV+ is by far the cheapest at just $6.99/month, but the company boasts a fraction of the shows with a reported content investment of just $6.5 billion. Netflix spends about $17 billion on content annually.

"Roughly 25% of respondents noted that 'subscriptions costs are high' relative to the value of the offering while ~31% noted they preferred other streaming offerings as the reason for not subscribing to Apple TV+," Vogt said.

"The former is likely an impediment as the macro backdrop remains challenging while the latter captures the competitive nature of the streaming market with numerous well capitalized companies."

The analyst added a mere 51% of Apple TV+ subscribers utilize the "auto renewal" feature compared to 64% for Amazon Prime Video, 63% for Netflix, and 60% for Disney+ — "increasing the risk of customer churn at Apple TV+ if the macro further slows."

Alexandra is a Senior Entertainment and Media Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193 and email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com

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