analysing Apple’s Video Sales: OK But Not Stellar

Early in his presentation yesterday, Steve Jobs boasted that Apple has sold 95 million videos through iTunes since Oct. 2005, when they first went on sale. Is that worth bragging about? 95 million videos at $2 each equals $190 million of video revenue over 23 months (of which most goes back to the video producers). But for comparison, Apple sold 200 million songs, at $1 each, in only 19 months after launching music sales in 2003.  In other words, on a unit basis, Apple’s video sales business is off to a much slower start than its music business enjoyed.

We’ve plotted both music and video unit sales at the store in their first two years. Conclusion: Apple video sales started fast but have slowed, while Apple music sales accelerated in the first two years after launch. More importantly, two years after Apple got into digital music, it had the market sewn up. But today video remains up for grabs.


It makes sense that Apple music sales started comparatively slowly: When Jobs opened up the iTunes store in April 2003, the product only worked on a Mac, and iTunes was not the dominant media player. On the other hand, Jobs made sure he had all of the major music labels signed on before he launched. Meanwhile when Jobs launched video sales nearly two years ago, iTunes had a huge base. But Jobs had only one major studio/TV network signed on — Disney/ABC.

Since then Apple has brought most of Hollywood aboard, but the relationship has been tenuous — see the recent dustup with NBC over pricing and other terms. Meanwhile video sales are a tiny portion of iTunes sales — “Music dominates iTunes” Jobs told USA Today yesterday — and at the rate they’re growing, they’ll stay that way for a while. If the studios want to negotiate a new deal with Jobs, now is a good time to do it.

Related: Estimating Financial Impact Of iTunes/NBC.