Is Apple about to enter the Web TV business?
Renewed talks with programmers rekindle Apple TV rumours
The long standing rumours surrounding Apple’s desire to enter the web TV business are beginning to resurface.
A report from Recode suggests that Apple execs are renewing talks with US TV providers in an effort to secure deals that would allow Apple to bundle content from different networks and sell it for a monthly subscription. It is also believed that some live programming might be made available as a part of certain packages.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has gone on record numerous times to say that they want to solve the TV puzzle but, so far, attempts with the Apple TV devices and the collapse of a proposed $30/month subscription scheme have seemed somewhat half-hearted.
What Apple really wants to do is radically change the current user experience. The traditional approach of consumers trawling through an electronic programme guide to find something to watch is, no doubt, outdated and Apple are in a great position to change that.
They can leverage technology they already own, via various acquisitions over the years – encompassing voice and gesture controls, as well as a sophisticated content recommendation engine. Apple bought out Matcha.tv back in 2013 but since then things went pretty quiet.
Matcha was formally a second screen iOS app created to form a social TV and movie recommendation engine, pulling in information from a range of streaming and video services, including Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. The service disappeared at the time of the takeover but it would seem inevitable that it – or something like it - would be central to Apple’s offer.
Prior to the Matcha purchase, it was strongly rumoured that Apple had developed some very nifty advert skipping technology which they were keen to include in any TV service. It is believed that Apple got as far as demonstrating it to network executives, although it’s unclear what reception they received. Should it get the green-light, the ad-skipping capability would likely come as a premium on top of any basic subscription to the service but it would certainly provide an interesting USP.
One of the problems Apple has obviously faced is in the ability to secure enough content deals to make Apple TV a viable service. Networks have been understandably reticent to sign deals to hand their programming over as it will inevitably hit their profit margins – at least in the short term. If – and it’s still quite a big if at this stage – Apple can gain enough agreements with enough of the big players, then it’s likely that they’ll all fall in to line at the fear of being seen to be not part of Apple’s exclusive club.
The other problem for Apple is that the Smart TV platforms built in to a lot of TVs nowadays already provide much of what Apple seems to be proposing. You only have to look at the user interfaces and content available, via the likes of LG’s webOS 2.0 and Samsung’s new Tizen Smart TVs, to see that there are already rich and intuitive viewing experiences already out there. Add in the fact that Google are really starting to embrace the idea of Android for the big-screen and there are numerous TVs supporting that OS coming out this year, with crucial support from big-hitters, Sony. There’s also Roku to consider, who have been selling their platform as middleware to some of the emerging far eastern manufacturers.
Tim Cook thinks the current TV experience is rubbishStill, there’s no other company on the planet with the amount of devoted customers that Apple has and it’s likely many will buy in, just on the principle that Cupertino is providing the service and, ergo, it will be great.
Another thing in Apple’s favour, in the current climate, are the recent deals Sony and the Dish network have struck with the US networks to provide similar services to those that it is thought Apple want to deliver. As pure speculation, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if Apple’s terms were a bit less favourable to the content providers than those of Sony or Dish but we’ll leave that one hanging.
According to Recode, Apple has been demoing their latest system to some programmers but any deals are still some way off. The same report states that some have yet to begin negotiations with Apple, at all, so it’s not likely this is something we’ll see in 2015 but who knows about 2016?
Do you like the sound of an Apple inspired lean-back experience and what could they really bring the party, over and above what we have now? What about pricing – it’s not likely to be cheap so how will Apple convince customers to start paying them, instead of the cable providers, for their aggregated TV content?
Let’s not even start on how they would go about launching this globally…
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