Apple emails reveal how it tried to stop Netflix from pulling in-app iOS purchases

A high-profile example of how important that 30 percent cut is to Apple's business model.

Robert Galbraith / reuters

Before Netflix dropped in-app purchases on the iOS Store, Apple really tried to convince them to keep the option, according to internal emails revealed in the Epic vs. Apple court case. Spotted by 9to5 Mac, the documents show that Apple offered to advertise Netflix in its retail stores, pay for search ads and even bundle Netflix with its own services.

Netflix dropped in-app iOS Store purchases in December of 2018, but that decision was still in the planning stages when the emails circulated in early 2018. According to several threads, Netflix planned to run a study detailing the impact of disabling in-app purchases on iOS. It said it was concerned that users who signed up for Netflix on iOS had a tendency to cancel more often than when they joined on Netflix's website or other ways. (And was also no doubt concerned about revenue lost via Apple's 30 percent cut.) As such, Netflix wanted to run a two-month test in select markets with in-app purchases disabled.

Apple, of course, stood to lose a substantial amount of revenue. At first it considered punishing Netflix, but by July 2018, it had created a presentation meant to sway the streamer in favor of keeping in-app purchases. It highlighted all of the promotion work it did for Netflix, saying it was featured more than any other developer, and noted that its advertising had boosted downloads by up to seven percent. It also proposed subscriber discounts, bundling with Apple services and other perks never offered to other partners.

Netflix ultimately dropped in-app subscriptions for new iOS signups and didn't seem to suffer any losses as a result — it recently hit the 200-million-subscriber mark, for example. From Epic Games' side, the episode may be designed to show that Apple is willing to cut deals for its largest, most lucrative partners. As such, it could possibly be used to undermine Apple's argument that it wouldn't be fair to give Epic a special rate.