Where Apple, Amazon and YouTube Parent Alphabet Stand In the Streaming War

Music and video platforms brought gains to Big Tech companies in the last quarter of 2023.

Global Head of Music at YouTube and Google Lyor Cohen
YouTube’s global head of music Lyor Cohen celebrates YouTube’s subscription milestone on Feb. 1. Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for City of Hope

This week in tech earnings showed some bright spots in video and music streaming at Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN) and Alphabet (GOOGL). All three companies saw subscription and advertising revenue grow significantly in the December quarter and credited the success to their respective video and music streaming platforms.

Apple: Services unit, including Apple TV+, has 1 billion subscribers

On the Apple earnings call yesterday (Feb. 1), Apple’s services unit, which includes Apple TV+ and Apple Music, was a central topic of discussion. Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, produced by Apple Studios, got a mention from CEO Tim Cook, who noted the movie’s 200-plus accolades, including 10 Oscar nominations this year, are growing Apple’s awards portfolio. “Across all Apple TV+ productions, we’ve now earned 2,050 award nominations and 450 wins since we’ve introduced the service,” Cook said.

Apple’s services unit passed 1 billion paid subscribers at the end of 2023 and brought in $23.1 billion in quarterly revenue, an 11 percent jump from the previous year. Apple’s chief financial officer Luca Maestri expects another double-digit growth in the current quarter. “Our installed base is now over 2.2 billion active devices and continues to grow nicely, establishing a solid foundation for the future expansion of our Services business,” Maestri said on the earnings call. “And we continue to see increased customer engagement with our services.” 

Amazon: Prime, including Prime Video, has 200 million subscribers

Amazon’s advertising services revenue jumped 27 percent in the December quarter to $14.7 billion. Revenue from subscriptions to digital products like music, games and books rose 14 percent to $10.5 billion. Though user reaction to Amazon bringing ads on Prime Video (which made an ad-free subscription more expensive) has been mixed, the company seems optimistic that the ad-tier plans will bring in more users.

We are looking for ways to increase our advertising in our streaming properties, including Fire TV…and Prime Video, but also things like Freevee and Twitch,” Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said yesterday’s earnings call.    

Alphabet: YouTube Premium and Music have 100 million subscribers

Over the last few years, Alphabet has been more open about disclosing financial details at YouTube. In its quarterly report on Jan. 30, Alphabet disclosed YouTube’s paid subscriber number for the first time. The video platform had more than 100 million subscribers (including non-paying trial subscribers) at the end of 2023. On the earnings call, Alphabet and Google (GOOGL) CEO Sundar Pichai said YouTube is the main driver of the company’s subscription revenue.

Lyor Cohen, the head of music at YouTube and Google, touted some of the steps Alphabet has taken to grow its subscription business, crediting early access to A.I. tools and generative A.I. music covers as some of the factors. From leveraging A.I. to enhance creative imagination to seamlessly bridging short-form and long-form content for maximum artist exposure, we can forge a future together where the music industry thrives,” Cohen said in a blog post yesterday. 

Where Apple, Amazon and YouTube Parent Alphabet Stand In the Streaming War