Apple offered Hulu and other developers special App Store API access

As the Epic Games vs. Apple antitrust case charges ahead, we’ve learned another juicy detail about Apple’s business practice.

As reported today by MacRumors, Apple’s Vice President of the App Store Matt Fischer sat on the stand, taking on examination from both Apple and Epic Games lawyers. As part of the process, an email was revealed that shows Apple has built up special relationships from a range of developers. That includes Hulu, one of the biggest video streamers out there.

As noted in the original report, a tweet sent by developer David Barnard noted that some App Store subscriptions were being automatically cancelled via the StoreKit API. At the same time, Barnard suggested moving away from App Store billing.

In an exchange with Cindy Lin, Fischer asked about the situation brought up Barnard. It turns out Hulu, among some other developers, are whitelisted with special API privileges in the App Store. Hulu, for instance, at the time was noted as being one service that has subscription cancel/refund API:

Hulu is part of the set of whitelisted developers with access to subscription cancel/refund API. Back in 2015 they were using this to support instant upgrade using a 2 family setup, before we had subscription upgrade/downgrade capabilities built in.

Unfortunately, while other developers are hinted at, the exchange doesn’t specifically name drop any of them.

Barnard weighed in on the subject today:

Interestingly, Fischer was asked directly if Apple offers special privileges to some developers, which would give them the ability to do more than other developers. Fischer said that Apple did not. However, he did add that Apple does test new features with some developers, so, at some points, some of those apps may boast additional features that others do not have.

Apple has touted the App Store as being a “level playing field” for developers to make their fortunes. However, this latest report indicates that that might not be the case, exactly. And, indeed, its was recently revealed that Apple tried very hard to keep Netflix from dropping the in-app purchase option from its app years ago.

It is going to be interesting to see how this all ends up.