updated 03:19 pm EDT, Thu May 31, 2012
Apple's hobby media model polar opposite of iPhone
Apple has long described its Apple TV peripheral as "a hobby" for the company, and the device appears to bring in revenues commensurate with its status within the company. Analytics firm Asymco recently took a look at the sales history for Apple TV, finding that the device likely pulls in revenues comparable to Apple's popular accessory, the iPad Smart Covers. The Apple TV, though, displays a media revenue model starkly different from any of Apple's other devices.
Asymco's analysis includes all of the publicly-known sales data for the Apple TV and interpolations to fill any gaps. The analysis concludes that Apple achieved about $344 million in 2011 hardware revenues for the device, or, by comparison, about five percent of revenues brought by the iPod.
Aside from the raw hardware sales, however, Asymco assumes that Apple TV's content sales pull in about $10 per month per device. That amounts to about five TV shows, or one movie purchased, or two movies rented per month. With an install base of approximately 10 million by the end of 2011, that would equal about $1.2 billion in content sales for Apple TVs in use.
Apple, due to its deals with content providers, would bring in approximately 30 percent of that figure, or $360 million. Added to the $344 million in hardware revenues, that amounts to $704 million generated by the Apple TV. In terms of revenue, this puts Apple's hobby device about on par with Asymco's estimated revenues from sales of its iPad Smart Covers.
Asymco's analysis marks the Apple TV as novel within Apple's profit structure in that content sales account for a significant portion of the revenues from the device. By comparison, the iPhone relies on a "break-even" model with the iTunes App Store but brings in considerable hardware margins. While making no hard predictions, Asymco does note the uniqueness of Apple's hobby device with a wink toward the possibility of an Apple-branded television somewhere in the offing.