Apple has been rumored to be working on a TV service. I wouldn’t count on that. The company behind the iPhone, Apple TV, iMac and so many other popular products is always rumored to be getting into something new. One of the big no gos over the past decade was an idea of an Apple television. Never happened. Next it was a competitor to programs like sling TV and DirecTV Now. Never happened. Now the latest narrative on Apple is that they are working on a TV service more akin to Netflix. There has been no reporting at all about Apple signing deals with third party content owners like studios or networks in order to create a TV or movie catalog. Without a content library Apple can hardly tout a new service.
That there are a number of things going into planning for Apple to offer original programming cannot be denied. But Apple is very unlikely to try to introduce a free-standing TV service. There are a number of rumored projects involving top tier talent but say 20 possible shows/movies does not a full on service make. Much more likely is that Apple is going to integrate of number of new TV shows into its iTunes store and or possibly make them available to subscribers of Apple music for an additional cost.Maybe Apple will even take a note from YouTube and include them as a special tier the way that YouTube made their “Youtube Red” series available to people who had an upgraded program for YouTube music. It wouldn’t be the first time Apple did something that Google or Android had done first.
Apple is definitely working on something in the TV world their hiring has shown a number of major new faces that boast TV production backgrounds. This is the reason that some people are guessing that a service is coming. But the truth is that Apple rarely seems to compete with other services that are similar to things that are already offered as apps. The only really notable exception has been Apple music which goes right up against Spotify though there are some differences between the services. Apple would be fighting a losing battle if it tried to compete against Netflix, Hulu and Disney +.
I have begun to think that the reason so many people keep reporting on an Apple TV service is because they don’t understand the difference between a service and a feature. For instance the “TV” app on Apple TV and iOS devices is not a service. It is a wonderful interface that allows users to access content from across numerous apps all in one place and have it broken down into categories. This is not dissimilar to the Roku Channel which also pulls and content from numerous apps available through Roku and puts them into one place in categories. Often Roku is thrown into discussions about services. Bloggers, under informed reporters and TV commentators often say things like “People are eschewing traditional TV in favor of things like Netflix and Roku or even buying series separately”. They ignore the gigantic difference between a service and a marketplace or platform. Another mythical service that commentators get wrong all of the time is “Amazons a-la-carte service” Amazon channels. Amazon channels is not an a-la-carte TV service. It is a way to subscribe to a growing number of separate premium services and be billed for them from Amazon. But it’s not as though a user can subscribe to ABC, Fox News and HBO and call it a day. It is more of an App Store within an app. Roku is getting in on the same game. All of the competing products are trying to come up with a way to make content easier to find and that’s great for the consumer. But these are product features. Not services that you are charged for.
Apple is certainly working on a new direction as far as how it approaches distribution. Apple has already made move to start integrating AirPlay into major TV brands like Samsung going forward. This indicates to me that it wants more people to be able to access its stuff. For instance new TVs outside of the Apple world are going to start having an actual iTunes app. Not to be confused with a full Apple App Store but the TV programming will be available through this. But what I expect Apple to do is integrate unlimited access the programming into Apple music, sell the programming at a per episode price through iTunes and the “TV” app on devices and leave it at that. I would not even put it past Apple to sell the programming that is developing to other platforms like Netflix or Amazon. You may forget but there was a time when Microsoft thought it was getting into the TV business. It launched an initiative to start producing tons of original content. In the end we got one really great documentary about Atari and the failure of the ET video game.
Apple will not fail on that level with its new product. I believe the failure will be on the part of the press who continues to follow Apple stories from nefarious rumor monger sites like a cat jumping at a laser pointer no matter how many times it has been burned. This time I could be wrong. I may be making a video within weeks showing how this whole new service works and letting everyone know how many thousands of titles are available including new Apple produced content. We’ll see. It would be the first time we were dead wrong on Apple if that’s the case.