Sources tell the site that it's a form of ad arbitrage and it's been going on for at least two years.
Impacted businesses include major brands such as dating apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and Bumble, media giant HBO, education and learning publisher Masterclass, and language learning service Babbel. The ads don’t disclose that they are from Apple and would, to most observers, simply look like ads from the brands and app publishers themselves that happen to go right to the App Store. They do, however, have similar tracking links with near-identical parameters that indicate one agency is likely placing all of them.
“Apple is trying maximize the money they’re making by driving in-app purchases that people buy through the Apple Store,” said a source. “Apple has figured out that they can make more money off these developers if they push people to the App Store to purchase there versus a web flow.”
Basically, if a user signs up to a service via an iOS app, the developer is forced to pay Apple 15-30% commission. If they sign up directly on the service's website, the developer gets to keep all the subscription revenue.
Forbes has shared a snapshot of an HBO ad placed by Apple in competition with an ad from HBO itself and an ad from Hulu. Take a look below and hit the link for the full report...