The rumours of an Apple TV streaming service are nothing new, with speculation regarding an Apple owned streaming service stretching back to 2009, but things are hotting up as evidence rolls in, including a confirmation from the boss of ESPN. Here’s everything we know so far about Apple’s rumoured streaming service, including what it might feature and when it might be released.
Last updated to include information on a Wall Street Journal report claiming that Apple is talking to Hollywood producers about buying the rights to TV shows.
Apple TV streaming release date: When is Apple's streaming service launching?
There have been rumours for some time that Apple would launch a streaming service for TV content, kind of like a TV/Movie version of Apple Music, but it sounds like the rumoured Apple TV streaming service won't be launching anytime soon. The latest reports suggest it will be further delayed as Apple continues to negotiate with the TV networks in the US.
ESPN's boss John Skipper has confirmed that he is working on a deal with Apple for its streaming service, but that Apple is having more trouble convincing other networks to join in.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Skipper said: "We are big proponents of believing [Apple TV] would be a fabulous place to sell some subscriptions. We have ongoing conversations."
"[Apple is] creating a significantly advantageous operating system and a great television experience and that television experience is fabulous for sports."
A December 2015 report from Bloomberg claimed that Apple is putting its plans for the streaming service on hold because the cable companies and networks are proving too resistant to the idea.
In fact, Apple may ditch the idea altogether, focusing instead on offering the tvOS platform for media companies to sell their content directly to consumers via the App Store, states the Bloomberg report.
Following the above reports, news surfaced in February 2016 that CBS talks with Apple had stopped following months of discussions, suggesting a change in tactic. As first reported by CNN, CBS CEO Les Moonves claimed that talks with Apple had stopped following months of conversations with content providers: "We had conversations awhile back, and we haven't had recent conversations with them," Moonves said.
Moonves continued the interview by putting pressure on Apple, remarking that "the phone is always ringing" with other digital companies trying to partner with CBS for similar services. It seems like the clock is ticking for Apple, and we may never see the much-fabled TV streaming service. With this being said, we'll be updating this section with any new information as soon as we receive it so make sure you keep checking back for the latest news.
Is it true that Apple might buy HBO?
One of the latest updates in the Apple TV streaming saga is a rumour that Apple is considering buying HBO, the home of Game of Thrones as part of an acquisition deal with Time Warner.
A New York Post report claims that Apple might even buy Time Warner, Inc. That purchase would include HBO, CNN, HLN, TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network.
The Post article explains that Time Warner's Jeff Bewkes is under pressure to spin off HBO. The report claims that "Apple is staying extra close to any possible movement on this front".
21st Century Fox made an offer to buy Time Warner in 2013 but was rejected. AT&T and Fox are also said to be interested in buying Time Warner.
Whether it Apple would benefit from purchasing HBO and/or Time Warner is another matter, Apple already has access to HBO shows, so it doesn't really need to own the company. Owning Time Warner would be a headache as Apple would have to liaise with several cable networks not to mention turning old school cable channels into digital offerings.
What's the delay with Apple's TV streaming service?
According to Bloomberg's report at the end of 2015, the TV networks are resistant to the idea of an iTunes streaming service because if Apple’s demand for content at a price that the networks aren’t happy with.
CBS CEO Les Moonves, who has often commented on the rumoured service, has also claimed that Apple has put the streaming service plans “on hold”, according to Bloomberg.
Even back in August 2015, we were hearing that talks with CBS, Fox, and NBC had stalled, according to Bloomberg.
Reports back then suggest that Apple was not likely to launch the new service until 2016. When it does, don’t expect the company to have confirmed deals in place with UK suppliers, it would appear that currently all its efforts are going into making agreements with US TV networks.
As well as being unsuccessful in coming to agreements with the partners, Apple has also failed to increase network capacity enough to ensure a “glitch-free viewing experience” for customers, according to the report. Bloomberg explains that the programs would need to be stored locally to the customer – that streaming a show from California to New York would not be appropriate. Apple currently has four data centers in California, Nevada, North Carolina and Oregon. Perhaps related to this, Apple is said to be in talks with at least one operator of small “micro-data centers”, writes Bloomberg.
Reports from May 2015 also suggested that Apple is struggling to get TV programmers on board, and it's all down to local TV stations, apparently.
At the time, Re/Code said that Apple wants to beat rivals by offering local stations, but it pursuing those stations has thrown a spanner in the works ahead of its launch.
"TV executives who are talking to Apple are optimistic the service will launch eventually, and that the most important hurdle to clear will be money, not technical issues," says the report.
The report from The New York Post on 14 July 2016 suggests that Apple is in advanced talks with ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox in the United States. So why has it taken so long to come to some kind of deal? The report claims that the issue stems from local affiliate feeds, as the networks didn't directly have the rights to them and, therefore, couldn't negotiate on their behalf. Tim Cook urged networks to do the ground work on Apple's behalf, chasing up affiliates around America to get the appropriate rights to complete negotiations with Apple.
The report also claims that Apple is looking to collect a 30% fee from all subscriptions, as it does with all other subscription-based services. However, The New York Times suggests that some network operators aren't happy about it, and goes on to describe a 'bullish' Apple that had an Autumn 2016 release date in its sights, which has now passed.
Apple’s Jimmy Iovine on Apple TV streaming
Speaking to Wired about Apple Music Jimmy Iovine, who joined Apple with as part of the Beats acquisition, said:
“We all know one thing, we all have different television delivery systems, don’t we all wish that the delivery systems were better, as far as curation and service? They’re all technically good. And Netflix is starting to cross the code because they’re starting to make some original content. It is really good, but still I mean none of us make movies here right, so we’re all punters, or what do you call them in the music business, fans right? We want to watch movies. Sit down with your girlfriend or a bunch of friends and try to find a movie online. That box helps you none — it doesn’t help. You’re on your own. And eventually, that will catch them unless somebody digs in and really helps the customer. And entertainment needs that, it needs to live and breathe.”
His words could be considered a hint that a TV streaming service is something Apple is working on. Iovine has reportedly been involved in helping Apple broker content deals with TV companies, according to Cult of Mac.
Apple TV Streaming Service: What is it?
So, what is the Apple TV streaming service? According to reports that date as far back as 2009, Apple has been trying to break into the TV industry with some sort of content streaming service. However, those 2009 rumours turned out to be just that – rumours. Fast forward to 2015 however and it looks like Apple may once again be setting their sights on the industry, according to a report by Re/Code. It’s claimed that Apple is in talks with TV programmers about potential deals that could allow Apple to offer a payment based TV streaming service to rival the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video.
The idea is that instead of providing hundreds of channels to consumers like current paid TV offerings, Apple would put together bundles of popular TV channels and stream them directly to your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV using the internet. It means that Apple wouldn’t be a stereotypical TV provider, but maybe that was Apple’s plan all along – after all, Apple has a habit of taking existing technologies and improving them.
The report also claims that Apple has shown programmers demos of the proposed service, but talks are still in the early stages. It also mentions that there are several TV programmers that haven’t even been approached by Apple yet.
Update (16/01/2017): This was followed up by a January 2017 report by The Wall Street Journal claiming that Apple's recent ventures into video, including plans to produce 16 episodes of Carpool Karaoke and a new reality show called Planet of the Apps, are part of a plan to take on Netflix. According to a source with knowledge of the subject, Apple has been in talks with major Hollywood producers about buying the rights to scripted TV shows - although the source couldn't mention specific shows or producers.
What the source did mention was how Apple might sell the service. Apparently, subscribers of Apple Music would gain access to the content at no extra charge, making Apple's music-streaming service more appealing to fans of Spotify and Netflix, two of Apple's biggest competitors.
We think that Apple should offer the content currently available on iTunes - movies and TV shows - for streaming, just as it offers music on Apple Music to subscribers. With an episode of Big Bang theory costing around £2.49 a go, it is illogical to download episodes from iTunes when you can just watch them on All4.
Apple TV Streaming Service: What will it cost?
With regards to cost, Apple’s subscription will reportedly cost around $30-40 (probably US-only service to start), which is a tad pricier than other American TV providers such as Sling TV, which offers a $20 base package. But what does this price tag get you? It’s claimed that the service will offer around 25 different channels, with the likes of ABC, CBS and Fox being lined up as partners.
There is one major US provider missing from that list – NBCUniversal. According to the WSJ, it’s because Apple and NBCUniversal’s parent company Comcast have had a falling out. “Apple and Comcast were in talks as recently as last year about working together on a streaming television platform that would combine Apple’s expertise in user interfaces with Comcast’s strength in broadband delivery,” reports the Journal. “Apple came to believe that Comcast was stringing it along while the cable giant focused on its own X1 Web-enabled set-top box, the people said.”
This goes against a report published by Re/Code which claims that the reason that Comcast isn’t a part of the rumoured Apple TV streaming service is simply because Apple hasn’t approached the company. Comcast apparently acknowledged its non-talks with Apple in a letter sent to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) as part of an effort to acquire its biggest competitor, Time Warner Cable.
The note was in reply to a note written by “Stop Mega Comcast”, a coalition opposing the deal. The coalition claimed that Comcast may be withholding NBCUniversal content in an effort to “thwart new video competitors”. Comcast responded by saying “Not only has NBCUniversal not ‘withheld’ programming from Apple’s new venture, Apple has not even approached NBCUniversal with such a request.”
It’s interesting that denial of a working relationship becomes news, but that’s what happens when Apple is involved. It’s also worth noting that the likes of Fox, ABC, CBS and others haven’t confirmed talks with Apple, and that the report is can be viewed as more of an acknowledgement that something may be happening, rather than concrete evidence.
But the question is – what’s in it for the providers? The New York Post has claimed that Apple has offered to share data with providers to get them on board with its internet-enabled TV streaming service. It’s been claimed that Apple will provide companies with details regarding who its viewers are, what they watch as well as when they watch it. This could help providers with advertising, as Apple is taking a step back and letting providers decide whether ads will be included.
The tactic is an interesting one, as Apple is offering something that traditional cable companies, as well as the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime won’t offer to providers. Why is this? It could be to try and catch up to Sling TV, which offers a similar service without a cable TV subscription.
Apple is also apparently asking the TV providers to supply their own streams for the upcoming streaming service. According to TV industry executives, Apple is asking TV networks to handle both the responsibility and cost of the streaming infrastructure. It may not be a huge ask – many video services that are currently supported by Apple TV (including Fox in the US) organise their own streams by working with various content delivery networks, so this may be the next logical step.
Apple TV Streaming Service: On Demand options
When Apple showcased the Apple Watch at its 9 March event, it also announced a new and exclusive partnership with HBO to offer HBO Now, the premium channels first service outside of a traditional cable provider. The Apple TV app allows you to browse HBO’s full catalogue of shows and films for $14.99 a month, and was iPhone/iPad/Apple TV exclusive for three months after its 10 April 2015 launch.
In the UK new Apple TV owners can get an iPlayer app, Sky Now Entertainment, Movies and Sports, and, of course, Netflix.
Apple TV Streaming Service: When will it launch in the UK?
Like the launch of Apple Pay and Apple Music, the launch of Apple’s TV streaming service, if it ever launches, is likely to do so in the US - especially since rumoured providers are mainly US based. With regards to a UK-specific launch, there are no rumours and we don’t expect a UK variation to be available anytime soon.