Apple’s treatment of Netflix highlights arbitrary App Store rules

Apple’s treatment of Netflix highlights arbitrary App Store rules

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Netflix Downloads for You puts suggested shows right onto your iPhone
Unlike Epic Games, Netflix wasn’t banned from the App Store when it did an end run around Apple’s in-app purchase system.
Photo: Netflix

The latest insider info brought to light by the Epic Games v. Apple trial is the lengths the Mac-maker went to convince Netflix to continue taking subscriptions in its iPhone/iPad app. But Netflix stopped anyway, and Apple took no action.

When Epic Games tried to do something similar, Apple banned all its software from the App Store.

Apple to Netflix: Don’t leave us!

The court battle between Epic Games and Apple is over how the App Store is managed. And as part of the trial, the game developer got access to many internal Apple emails and is using them as evidence.

That includes ones from 2018 when Netflix was planning to stop taking subscriptions as in-app purchases. Apple didn’t want this to happen because it collects 30% of these fees the first year, then 15% thereafter.

Apple executives worked hard to convince the video streaming service to change its mind. They made a number of proposals, many of which related to Apple helping to advertise Netflix and its movies and TV shows.

In the end, these efforts were unsuccessful. The company stopped using Apple’s in-app purchase system and today the only way to subscribe to Netflix is on their website.

Apple didn’t respond by kicking the Netflix application out of the App Store even though it no longer collects any revenue from it. But Netflix continues to make considerable money off iPhone/iPad users.

Apple to Epic Games: Don’t left the door hit you on the way out

Contrast this to what happened in August 2020 when Epic Games added a direct-payment system to its Fortnite game. This allowed users to buy items in the game directly from the developer without being required to use Apple’s in-app purchase system. Unlike Netflix, users still had the option to use the IAP if they wished.

Apple responded by immediately banning Fortnite from the App Store.

The Mac-maker is likely to have to explain to Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers its reasons for the very different treatment of the two companies for similar actions before the end of the ongoing Epic Games v. Apple trial.