Apple rumors are so popular that there are websites straight out built on them. The big one for years was that Apple was going to release its own TV set with the Apple TV interface built in with this and that feature. Ther were plenty of people with “someone close to the project” who said they would be coming out within months or weeks of the publishing of numerous stories or the first quarter of 2012, 2013, 2014 and so on, before someone announced that the non-existent product was dead.
The next round of Apple rumors surrounded the now available Apple TV 4th generation. After the release of the 3rd generation box, bloggers and rumor mongers said a new one would be out because the 3rd gen box was nearing a year old. So I figure you understand the pattern.
So in 2015 there was a new rumor. This rumor was that Apple was working on a live TV service in the vein of Sling TV. The rumor said that the service aimed to provide local channels in all markets and a substantial number of pay TV channels for somewhere around $40.00. This always seemed far fetched from our point of view because frankly negotiations around television are very complicated. Companies like Comcast and Time Warner that specialize in TV delivery do not exactly roll through negotiations with channel providers and local affiliates. Eventually, stories surfaced about Apple failing to sell a number of key players in the industry on the idea. I don’t think that Apple has any plans at all to launch a service going forward and here is why.
Apple recently rolled out an app its calls “TV”. It is a solid idea that means to tie together a number of major apps found in the Apple ecosystem into one place including free apps, TV everywhere apps and on-demand services. Much hay has been made about its lack of Netflix integration but I think it’s important to note instead that Apple rolled out such an app without providing a TV service within it. And by calling it “TV” it means that if Apple actually plans to launch something in the future it is either going to have to integrate it into the “TV” app and reintroduce it or have one app that is called TV and one that provides a TV service with another name and that would be confusing. In general, the way the app is set up to work gives me the feeling that Apple is trying to tie things together in a neat bow and create a unique TV streaming experience without providing an actual service.
Inviting Natural competitors
Here is the big red flag. With the addition of “DirecTV Now”, Apple now has two services along with Sling TV that provide substantial live TV content for a nominal fee at their lower level tiers. That would not be such a tell if Apple didn’t appear to have a policy on the Apple TV Box that excludes direct competition from similar services. For instance, Apple offers users the ability to rent or buy episodes of TV shows and movies through its transactional iTunes store. Coincidentally other transactional services Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu and others that allow users to order movies and TV shows on demand are nowhere to be found on Apple TV. It doesn’t want hostile neighbors in its TV cul-de-sac.
My guess is that if Apple truly has plans for a TV service later down the line it would be a fireable offense for the content manager to allow competition to establish a beachhead in the app store ahead of time. And I don’t think Apple is stupid enough to do that. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what would have happened if Reed Hastings had approached Apple with the idea for Netflix instead of Blockbuster Video? Apple may have become the world leader in bingable content and you would not be able to get the service anywhere but Apple TV. Guess consumers are lucky it didn’t go down that way.