Few Ways Around App Store, More Around Google Play

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By Gene Munster of Loup Ventures

  • Netflix and Spotify are testing ways to avoid paying Apple for new in-app subscription purchases by forcing customers to visit mobile sites for subscription sign-ups.
  • Given this only affects new subscriptions, the financial impact on Apple will be de minimis (a fraction of a fraction of a percent of revenue).
  • The value of the App Store for developers is app discovery and conversion. Loss of new subscribers due to additional sign-up friction will force most apps to continue offering subscriptions through the App Store.
  • We estimate that, over a 4 year period, an average subscription app will pay Apple 19% of its revenue.
  • The real risk is losing revenue from in-app purchases, but given the walled garden nature of iOS, it’s unlikely that in-app purchases can be enabled off-platform. This means that Epic Games (Fortnite), which has paid Apple roughly $60m in the last 5 months, will likely continue to pay Apple the required 30% of in-app purchases.
  • The Google Play store is at more risk, as evidenced by Epic Games’ decision to launch on Android without the Google Play store.

Apple’s Deal with Developers

Apple keeps 30% of an in-app subscription over the first 12 months and 15% in each of the following months. Assuming a 4-year subscription life (which is about where Netflix is today), Apple takes 19% over those 4 years. For in-app purchases, Apple keeps 30%.

The Worst Case Scenario for Apple Isn’t Bad

Services revenue represented 19% ($9.6B) of Apple’s revenue in the Jun-18 quarter. We estimate apps account for 40% of Services revenue, and 20% of app revenue comes from in-app subscription purchases, of which at most 5% come from Netflix and Spotify. There is a risk that Netflix and Spotify’s brand is strong enough to motivate customers through the additional subscription sign-up steps. If Apple loses their cut of all Netflix and Spotify subscription revenue long-term (not just new subscriptions), it would reduce the overall Services revenue by about 0.4%, and Apple’s overall revenue by 0.07%.  This headwind would lower Services growth rate in 2020 from 15% to 14%. Keep in mind this is highly unlikely because it would require Netflix and Spotify to cancel existing subscribers and ask them to re-sign up outside of the App Store platform.

In-app Purchases

Fortnite recently launched on Android and opted to skip the Google Play store altogether. In other words, Epic Games will capture 100% of revenues from in-app purchases. Fortnite remains in the App Store on iTunes, so Apple receives a 30% cut of all in-app purchases (about $60m from Fortnite over the past 5 months). This is unlikely to change given that the App Store is operated as a walled garden. On the other hand, Android is at risk of developers avoiding the Google Play store, given users can download apps directly from the web to an Android device. Developers like Epic or Supercell, which are well-established and have large marketing budgets, are the most likely candidates to opt out of Google Play.

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