Apple TV no longer a ‘hobby’, brings in $1 billion in revenue last year

Apple rests its gigantic haunches on two iconic products: the iPhone, and the leader of the segment Apple arguably created, the iPad, both of which sell 10’s of millions of units each year. But the bigger headline most took away from Apple’s annual shareholder meeting this year was snatched by a feisty upstart in its carefully crafted lineup: the Apple TV.

As reported by TechCrunch, Apple sold an estimated 10 million Apple TV units last year, up from a total of 5 million from 2012. A more impressive figure from Apple CEO Tim Cook’s speech regarding the set top box, however, is $1 billion. That’s how much money the company made in total revenue from the Apple TV. And at $99 per box, that means Apple made a whole lotta cheddar on content alone.

For those unfamiliar, the Apple TV is not the actual television Apple has long been rumored to be developing (which continually fails to appear), but the talented little set-top box that connects to your current TV, allowing streaming from a plethora of online video apps, mirroring of content from your smartphone, tablet, or Mac via Airplay, and a host of other fancy media tricks that can be employed by the savvy user.

The numbers above show that Apple’s little box appears to have a considerable lead on its biggest competitor in the set top genre, the Roku. Based on the latest tally, Roku has sold around 5 million Roku devices in total, making Apple by far the device to chase. As so called cord-cutters continue to break away from the cable status quo, things continue to look good for both companies in the set-top game. 

Perhaps to celebrate the latest coup, or possibly to move out inventory for a rumored new model this spring, Apple has announced a deal on the Apple TV, offering a $25 iTunes gift card with purchase until March 5. 

Still, despite all of its clout and cache in the tech field, the Apple TV news is a glimmer of hope in an otherwise downward trend for Apple. iPad sales have tapered off, and iPhones have fallen dramatically in sales growth over the last few years thanks to a number of factors, not the least of which is a massive influx of both cheap and premium Android devices flooding the market from all angles.

While Apple is by no means in trouble, and still brings in truckloads of revenue, stock prices for the company have also had a rocky road as of late, as investors seem to be scrambling to find concrete reasons to stay with the company. Apple has always relied on its resilience as a perennial innovator, coming up with new products, and new ways to shape the industry it leads. But with the death of founder Steve Jobs, some are beginning to wonder if the Cupertino kids have lost their magic.

The Apple TV is a great way for the company to push into new segments, and can no longer be thought of as a ‘hobby’, as Mr. Cook explained in his latest report. A new model will likely be a big seller, but the box is not exactly a tent pole device, either. For a brand that has continually forged its path on big ideas, the question for Apple remains: what’s next?

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