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Apple's TV Hobby Is Now a Billion-Dollar Business

Wonder what would happen if Apple got serious?

Asa Mathat
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Apple has yet to introduce its “real” version of Apple TV, whatever that actually is.

But the $99 box it is selling is doing pretty well: Tim Cook just told Apple shareholders that the company generated more than $1 billion in Apple TV sales in 2013 — which implies sales of more than 10 million units. (See update, below)

“It’s a little more difficult to call it a hobby these days,” Apple’s CEO deadpanned at the annual shareholders meeting (via Reuters).

That’s the freshest data point Apple has offered about its Apple TV box, which makes it easier to get iTunes content, as well as video services like Netflix, onto your TV. Prior to this, the last time Cook talked about Apple TV numbers was at last spring’s D conference, when he said the company had sold more than 13 million boxes to date. Roku, Apple’s closest competitor in the Web TV box race, says it has sold 8 million.

I don’t know if Cook’s $1 billion comment includes sales of TV shows and movies purchased directly through the box. I also don’t know whether “2013” means the calendar year, or Apple’s fiscal year, which wrapped up at the end of last September. I’ve asked Apple for clarification. (Update: Apple says the $1 billion-plus figure includes content sales, and that Cook was talking about Apple’s fiscal year.)

In any case, the sales figures indicate that lots of people seem to get utility from the basic Apple TV box, even if it’s not the full-blown TV set, and/or service, that lots of Apple fans/investors want to see.

Here, by the way, is Apple TV’s current content lineup, via Apple’s online store:

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