For some time the web has been alight with claims that Apple is going to launch an Apple television set. The excitement was first fuelled by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ comments to his biographer that Apple had "cracked" television, and then fanned by CEO Tim Cook, who has described television as an area of "intense interest" for Apple. This is interesting given the fact that the company had previously described its Apple TV set-top box as "a hobby". Will Apple really transform our living rooms with its own take on what we should have on the box? And, the question on everyone's lips: when will Apple launch a television?
Unfortunately, if you were hoping for an HDTV from Apple, we have to be upfront with you now, we're afraid that you are out of luck, because the latest rumours suggest that despite spending a decade researching and developing an HDTV, Apple has decided to abandon plans to manufacture a TV in favour of its revamped Apple TV set top box. However, we do know that Apple did consider the idea of selling it's own TV and if you read on you can see how the story built up over the years...
This feature was first published in 2013 and then updated in 2015 after it was confirmed that the TV was resigned to the might have been pile...
Is Apple going to launch a television?
Last year, Tim Cook revealed Apple is “interested in TV” and will keep pulling strings to see where it leads.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has been claiming that an Apple television set is on its way since at least 2009. Every autumn, without fail, he admits he was wrong about the pre-Christmas launch date, but watch this space: this year we’ll see it, he claims.
Munster has, however, started to look less leftfield in the past couple of years thanks to Steve Jobs’ comments to his biographer. Walter Isaacson’s authorised biography of Steve Jobs seemed to reveal the company had made a breakthrough with the TV. “He very much wanted to do for television what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant,” wrote Isaacson.
“‘I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he [Jobs] told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.’”
If that's not enough for you, on a number of occasions last year and this year; Apple CEO Tim Cook has made comments that the television is an area of “intense interest” for the company. In December 2012, he told an NBC interviewer: “When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years. It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.”
Cook also spent some time talking about television at the D10 conference last year. He referred to the Apple TV set-top box, hinting there may be more potential. Apple’s CEO also noted that, for many, television is “an area in their life that they’re not pleased with” and suggested Apple will “keep pulling this string and see where it takes us.”
At the D11 conference this year, Cook reiterated his thoughts that the current TV model is broken, in the interview at D11 Cook said: "I think many of us would agree that there's lots of things about the TV experience that can be better, we answered some of those clearly not all of those, with Apple TV, and we're going to continue to make that better," promised Cook.
He later added: "When you look at the TV experience it's not an experience that I think may people love, it's not an experience that you would say has been bought up to date for this decade. It's still an experience that is still too much like it was ten years ago and in many cases 20 years ago."
Cook's comments have spurred on analysts and industry watchers who expect Apple to launch a television. Munster isn't the only analysts to be convinced that Apple is working on a TV. IDC senior research analyst Linn Huang shares the conventional wisdom that Apple is already working on a TV, that it's a real product, and that it will eventually go on sale. "They have done some sourcing of components from the TV components supply chain," says Huang. "They have made engineering explorations into the TV space."
Similarly Jefferies analyst Peter Miske told investors earlier this year that Apple is concentrating on developing a super-high definition iTV screen to make it stand out in the fiercely competitive TV market.
Other evidence suggesting that Apple is working on a television comes in the form of various hires made by the firm. Back in July, Apple was said to have hired Hulu senior VP of Marketing and Distribution Pete Distad. Distad's role is thought to be to negotiate future media deals. Distard led Hulu's push to make its app available on web-connected devices, including Apple TV.
In addition, back in February news that Apple had hired LG's OLED expert, who just happened to work for Samsung once-upon-a-time. James (Jueng-jil) Lee, a senior researcher at LG who had been working on creating a printed AMOLED TV (organic light-emitting diode) based television display, according to The OLED Association. Lee is "no doubt more knowledgeable about OLEDs that any of Apple's current staff, which is known to be quite strong," suggests the OLED Association.
With all this evidence, and the fact that a consumer electronics company of Apple's size and industry footprint would be strategically negligent if it didn't have a TV concept humming away in some back room, it certainly looks like Apple is working on a television.
Indeed, if it isn't working on television then something is very wrong. Apple should be prototyping big-screen TVs and other forward-thinking gadgets - because this is what innovators do.
What Will the Apple Television be Called?
UK TV broadcaster ITV has reportedly made it clear what Apple shouldn’t name its television.
Although, many have already dubbed Apple's television set ‘iTV’, it appears the British broadcaster has written to Apple to request that it doesn’t use the name ‘iTV’.
You may remember that when Apple first announced its set-top box in a keynote in September 2006, it was called the iTV, then when it was launched the product was named the Apple TV. There was a reason for that.
Another suggestion is that the television will be called ‘iPanel’. However, there’s no solid conclusion about what the company will call its television. Perhaps it will adopt the Apple TV name from the set-top box that bridges the gap between the internet and a standard set, although we imagine that Apple would continue to sell this £99 device. Although the company would be wise to avoid any confusion with the Apple TV, an existing product, if it wants to make its smart TV set consumer-friendly.
In this feature we generally refer to the idea of an actual television as the Apple Television, in order to distinguish it from the Apple TV set top box. We also use the term iTV sometimes, just because that's what some people insist on calling it, and no doubt they will continue to do so, whatever the company calls its television set.
How Much Will the Apple Television Cost?
At the moment, we can only guess about the price. We hope Apple would make its television available at prices consumers can afford, even though it Apple isn't known for low-level price points.
Presuming Apple will want to make a healthy gross margin of 35 per cent on the sales of the television, one estimate is that it will have to be priced around $1,000 to $2,000. (That’s £757.20 to £1,514.40 once you add on UK VAT.)
However, analyst Gene Munster found if the price tag is more than $1,500, more than 75 per cent of US consumers wouldn’t be willing to part with their cash.
The other factor to consider is whether a monthly subscription would be required to use the new features. Cable providers and content producers will not be keen on the idea of people being able to access shows for free.
Earlier this year Jefferies analyst Peter Misek suggested that if Apple had launched its television in time for Christmas 2012, it could have generated an extra $2.5bn (£1.58bn) in sales in the December quarter.
Read our Apple Television iTV release date, rumours, and pictures story for more information.
When will Apple launch a TV?
Various analysts have made predictions about when Apple will launch its television. Many of these dates have passed without anything being launched.
For example, back in 2012 Jefferies analyst Peter Miske claimed that Apple would release its television at WWDC 2012. Then in December 2012 Miske said that there are 'iTV' prototypes "floating around" ahead of a September or October 2013 launch. Misek also predicated an Apple TV event this March that failed to materialise.
Back in November 2012, Munster's predicted is that the Apple Television will arrive in November 2013.
This April, Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White wrote in a research note that, following meetings with Chinese and Taiwanese Apple component suppliers, he's learned that Apple's smart TV will go on sale in late 2013.
Now Miske says the Apple Television will launch sometime in 2014. "We had thought that Apple's software and ecosystem would be enough to drive demand but our checks indicate that Apple wants the hardware to also stand out," said Misek. "We believe Apple wants a display that looks like 4K/Ultra HD but without the super-premium cost."
It's not only analysts who come up with predictions for launch dates. DigiTimes reported back in March that its sources had revealed that Apple was planning to start working with LG Display to supply TV panels, and that mass production of the components would start by the end of this year ahead of a projected late 2013 to early 2014 launch, with the later unveiling more likely.
What Will the New Apple TV Look Like?
One thing is certain, we can expect the television to be thin, stylish and designed by Apple’s award-winning design guru Jonathan Ive.
Beyond that there is much rumour and speculation about the Apple Television's appearance. The Apple Television is rumoured to be between 42-55in in size with an ultra-high definition display based upon the 4K format (more on that below).
IDC senior research analyst Linn Huang said back in April 2013 that the so-called iTV will have a screen that measures 60 inches diagonally, but there could also be 50- and 55in versions of the television available.
There are also some more leftfield suggestions about the form that an Apple Television might take. Topeka Capital Market's Brian White claims that the iTV will come with tablet-like "mini iTVs" the size of Apple's 9.7in iPad. The main iTV will be able to wirelessly stream media to these smaller screens, which users could place around their home.
This is a similar theory to one that reported in July 2012. An Israeli-based TV provider purchased by Cisco systems was researching an idea for the next-generation television. The idea was that consumers could purchasing individual 'tiles' and slot them together on a wall. These screens could be 6-8in squares (without bezels) so they can be paired together and expanded into a screen that suits your size. You would make it bigger by slotting together new smaller screens (cheaper than buying a whole new display). These can be as big as you like (all the way up to the size of a wall) and placed all over the house. Such a set up could be capable of streaming TV shows, and also displaying different types of content at the same time, and in different sizes. You might want to watch the news in a small screen, and the latest feature film across the whole wall. This suits rumours that Apple is working on edge-to-edge screens.
A report from earlier in 2012 also suggested that rather than creating an Apple television set, Apple will sell transparent screens with a glass bezel that you can fix to the wall in every room of your house.
The lack of leaked images of components for the Apple Television hasn’t stopped people creating their own renders of how a television might look. A quick look on Google image search brings up a collection of Apple-esque screens.
We based our own idea of how the Apple television might look on its Cinema Display and iMac. Apple products feature glass and aluminium, with black boarders, so we’d expect the television set to follow those lines.
Alternatively, the design could be akin to a giant iPad, with a beautiful screen that can be controlled with an iPad or iPhone from your sofa.
What Kind of Screen Will the Television Have?
There are more pixels on an iPad than on an HDTV.
The iTV is expected to have a screen resolution that meets the 4K UHD (Ultra HD) standard. This standard, used by Peter Jackson for filming The Hobbit is four times greater than High-Definition video at 3,840-by-2,160. Current HDTV displays which offer 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, and the iPad with Retina display’s 2,048 x 1,536 (264 pixels per inch). This means 4K would enable Apple to brand the Apple Television as a Retina display device, as tends to be the trend with all Apple devices.
The 4K UHD standard uses the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) format,) which in January received first stage approval as an industry standard. It’s the successor to H.264.
The suggestion is that while Apple will adopt a 4K resolution it is unlikely to offer 3D. IDC senior research analyst Linn Huang said: "A 4K resolution would be a logical build choice, whereas 3D would probably not be," IDC senior research analyst Linn Huang
Apple is said to be shopping for an IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) display for its television. These displays allow for resolutions higher than the current crop of HDTV displays, and crucially deliver enough pixels for you to watch shows transmitted in Ultra HD. (Incidentally, these displays also respond to touch.)
The company won’t be the first to introduce such a display. At CES 2013, Sharp introduced two new TVs using this IGZO technology, while Sony and Panasonic both demonstrated their own 4K video technologies. However, for now, the televisions that support HEVC remain prohibitively expensive – the displays Samsung’s launched at CES cost tens of thousands of dollars. It’s unlikely that any TV manufacturer will implement support for HEVC until there’s a demand for sets that can display video encoded in this format.
It is the expense of these screens that may be slowing the process. Indeed, this is the reason analyst Peter Misek gave when he moved his launch date prediction to next year. "We had thought that Apple's software and ecosystem would be enough to drive demand but our checks indicate that Apple wants the hardware to also stand out," said Misek. "We believe Apple wants a display that looks like 4K/Ultra HD but without the super-premium cost."
Apple is said to be looking to make a manufacturing deal with LG Display or Sharp to supply 55in and 65in Ultra HD TV panels for a future Apple television set. According to DigiTimes, Apple is still in the process of testing display technology, so has yet to come to an agreement with either supplier.
There's another company that Apple could be looking to do a deal with in this area. A quick look at Corning's website shows that that company is involved in TV: "By supporting the sleek, ultra-thin seamless designs that are a popular trend in today’s LCD TV industry, Corning Gorilla Glass is literally changing the face of LCD TV," it says.
"With its pristine surface enabling a crisp, clear viewing experience, Gorilla Glass helps deliver on the promise of high definition and 3D TV," it adds.
This is significant because of Apple's existing relationship with Corning (which provides the Gorilla Glass used on the iPhone).
What sort of user interface will the Apple Television have?
"It's the software, stupid"
Apple is different to other technology companies because it makes the hardware and the software. This is a fact that it has used to emphasize why it is thanks to the software that it has become so successful. "It's the software, stupid," is often quoted.
Though he was speaking about the iPhone, Jobs explained exactly this point to analysts in a conference call back in 2008: “As software becomes the differentiating technology of this product category, people find that a hundred [hardware] variations presented to software developers is not very enticing. And most companies in this phone business do not have much experience in a software platform business. So we’re extremely comfortable with our product strategy going forward, and we approach it as a software platform company, which is pretty different than most of our competition.”
As a software (and hardware) company, few would disagree that Apple could make a better user interface for TV content than the cable companies. Indeed, it can likely create a better interface than the TV manufacturers if reports that people with new smart televisions aren't using many of the features, as they cannot navigate the complex interfaces, are true.
The key to Apple's solution to television will be a simple to navigate interface that lets users find the TV content they are looking for.
IDC senior research analyst Linn Huang said: "People talk about Apple trying to replace the TV experience, but that's obviously not where they're going. They are not trying to replace a TV with a TV. They're trying to get their TV on the mantle to drive this rich content experience that has not been available in a home living room environment before."
In an indication that the company is working on such an interface, Apple has acquired video discovery start-up Matcha.tv. Matcha.tv was an iOS app that aimed to help users discover content by providing an overview of everything that is available to watch across a variety of services including Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Prime and more.
Matcha.tv also had a social aspect, which allows you to see what your friends have been watching, a recommendation service and the ability to manage the content you've been watching from a universal queue.
Matcha's service could provide a valuable addition to the current Apple TV set-top box.
If Apple can help consumers identify which of the many sites can stream or sell them the show they want to watch, Apple's existing Apple TV from being just another television accessory towards becoming an entry portal for video consumption. This will becomes ever more necessary as more networks and content providers appear on the Apple TV, and the grid-of-icons interface becomes increasingly unwieldy for would-be watchers.
How will we control the Apple Television?
Apple has been granted a patent for a 3D remote
It’s likely that if you have a television, DVD player, Apple TV, Sky satellite dish and a DVR, you probably have five remotes with around 230 buttons.
With the controller for the Apple TV, Apple’s response was to come up with a remote that only has a handful of buttons. Apple's theory was that a fewer buttons is simpler to navigate. The problem is that using the Apple TV remote feels restrictive rather than freeing. The worst experience with the Apple TV has to be scrolling through the alphabet, selecting one letter at a time when you want to search for something in your iTunes library or on YouTube.
Earlier this year, Apple answered our prayers on this matter by updating the Apple TV software to make the use of a Bluetooth keyboard possible. As well as making it easier to add text. The ability to use a keyboard with the Apple TV should also make navigation of the iTunes Store and YouTube much easier.
Another advantage of Bluetooth connectivity, is that it could lead to a raft of third-party remotes.
There is, of course, another device that makes a great alternative remote control: the iPhone or iPad. You can download the Remote app from the App Store and control your Apple TV with a tap of your finger.
These may not be the only solutions Apple offers for navigating the interface on the Apple Television. Back in April, IDC senior research analyst Linn predicted that the Apple TV will come with a small 'iRing' device that fits onto the users' finger to allow them to control the screen by pointing and using gestures.
Could Apple use Siri on the Apple Television?
Another suggestion is that Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant Siri could be utilized, so that Apple TV owners just speak their instructions to the unit.
Siri may well emerge as a replacement for the aging remote, though perhaps not completely – nobody wants to have a shouting match with their television set at 2am – but certainly for most everyday uses, turning the complex hierarchy of on-screen menus into a simple command-based interface that anybody can grasp.
It’s believed that the simple user interface Jobs refers to in Isaacson’s biography will be based around voice controls, similar to Siri.
Apple wouldn’t be the first to introduce voice control features, last year LG, Samsung and Lenovo all started to introduce interactive features to their televisions, allowing users to search for shows and applications with voice commands.
The Bluetooth connected remote mentioned above could also include a mic for Siri input, allowing users to control the Apple TV via speech. Users could speak to their Apple TV, requesting that it plays the episode of The Big Bang Theory where Raj has a crush on Siri.
Could Apple use motion detection on the Apple Television?
Samsung has also built motion-sensing software, like that of Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect, into its televisions. Given the fact that Apple’s arch-rival has made such a move, it’s not surprising that reports have appeared suggesting that an Apple Television with gesture control features is in production.
The suggestion that users could use hand gestures to control the television, in a similar fashion to the way we use Microsoft’s Kinect, gained momentum back in July when reports claimed that Apple was in negotiations to buy PrimeSense, the Israeli company behind the 3D sensor technology in Microsoft's Kinect. Israeli newspaper Calcalist claimed that Apple has offered $280 million for the acquisition of PrimeSense, after senior Apple engineering managers that specialise in optical hardware visited the company earlier this month. The acquisition of PrimeSense could open up new possibilities if its 3D sensor technology was used to enable users to interact with the set-top box using gestures.
Whether this sale goes ahead or not, Apple has already been granted a patent that covers advanced tactile feedback technology, virtual reality gloves, and a unique touch signature that could be used to start a car. This patent also covers sensors that could be used to determine human or object position. These sensors could be built into a television set to allow human interaction, and are not limited to one object or just the overall location of an object, but could be expanded to detect gestures and movements.
The user may use “data gloves” that can provide the computer with finger and joint positions. This can enable the human to rotate objects shown on a screen by using gestures, says Apple's patent.
What other new technologies will on the Apple television feature?
The Apple Television could offer 802.11ac networking, face recognition and eye tracking
The other factor in the availability of this high-def content is the infrastructure necessary to support it. The screen is one thing, but video transmissions in the new 4K standard will also have an impact on broadband networks. Can the networks support it? Can they ensure no data drops? Can Apple’s TV revolution be streamed?
Adding 802.11ac networking to the device will be one step in the right direction. Sometimes referred to as ‘Gig Wi-Fi’ 802.11ac is the successor to 802.11n. As yet it’s unratified by the IEEE, but Apple has already implemented the standard in its MacBook Air and Airport Extreme. 802.11ac has the capacity to wirelessly network a TV, DVR, smart phone and sound system, and allow access through an internet-connected device.
We can also expect to see some interesting audio features. In a patent application published back in February, Apple describes a sound system that could be launched as part of Apple's iTV. The intelligent system could determine where a user is in a room, and if they are not within the optimum range, the processor could modify the audio output, says the application. It could also adjust based on which way the user is facing, and the environment that the user is in. Apple says that the invention could take the form of a system for providing an enhanced audio experience for laptop, tablet, smartphone, and television users, for example.
Apple's patent also explains that an image processing unit within the audio system could use face recognition and eye tracking to also help improve audio quality during FaceTime calls, enabling the microphone to be directed towards the speaker's mouth automatically.
Jeremy Allaire, CEO of the online video publishing platform Brightcove blogged in June that he expects that the Apple Television will include an A7 quad-core CPU for graphics and gaming, front-facing motion sensors and camera, and enough storage for games, apps, content, and recorded TV.
He also expects it to have a couple of Lightning ports - one for power and the other for a "coax dongle" that would accommodate your cable or satellite feed, and erase the need for a set-top box from your service provider.
Will I be Able to Access my Apps on the Apple TV?
It you take a look at the current Apple TV layout it's easy to imagine other icons like those on your iPhone: Calendar, Weather, Reminders, FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter, restaurant booking apps, travel apps, games and more. We'd love to see an app for BBC iPlayer, another for Channel 4OD, and so on, filling up spaces in the grid.
Imagine what access to the App Store via the Apple TV could bring, not just to users but also to Apple: the ability to purchase and download free apps from an Apple TV App Store would be yet another revenue stream for Apple.
Ideally, the company should allow users to manage those sources and apps: which ones appear, which are hidden, and how they’re arranged.
Hinting that such a feature could be in the pipeline, ‘Apps & Games’ appeared as a Holiday-themed category on the Apple TV interface back in December last year, fuelling speculation that the company could be planning to bring apps and games to the Apple TV set-top box.
Will I be Able to Play Games on the Apple TV?
Topeka Capital Market's Brian White predicted in June 2013: "The iTV would do much more than today's HDTVs. It would bring the Apple gaming experience to the living room, as well as FaceTime video chat and iTunes music."
It is a logical next step that the Apple TV could become a games console, as iOS is already an extremely popular gaming platform. In fact, the rumour that Apple could turn its set-top box into a games console has been running for some time. Back in 2009, we reported an analyst’s comments that the Apple TV had a future as a gaming device. Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter claimed Apple had a clear strategy to turn the device into an all-round entertainment system.
“Apple TV is the device they can turn into a console, and they have essentially the same goals as Microsoft – to turn Apple TV into an entertainment and Internet hub,” he argued.
While the Mac has traditionally been seen as a poor device for gaming (although this is changing), there can be no doubt about Apple’s gaming prowess when it comes to the iPhone and the iPad. The latter’s technological competence is incredible when you consider its svelte form, and the Retina display hints at an impressive future for gaming on the device. Even before the Retina display, impressive iOS titles like Infinity Blade were given an extra layer of detail that approaches the sort of lavish imagery we’re accustomed to on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
We think it’s likely that the Apple TV and Apple's television will offer gaming, not least because Apple has seen just how lucrative a market gaming on the iPad and iPhone is. The current generation of iOS gaming is arguably giving Nintendo’s Wii a run for its money in graphical terms. What if Apple was to announce a console based on the A6X CPU that powers the iPad?
Read our reviews of the best iOS Games
Will the iPlayer and other TV apps ever be available via Apple TV?
Traditionally, a TV is a box in the living room that’s hooked up to a satellite dish or aerial. These days your television could be a laptop, iPhone or iPad. A few years ago, the idea that we could watch live TV on our phone while sitting on the bus would have seemed impossible, and yet this has becomes another means by which people watch sporting events, especially with the advent of LTE 4G.
The way we access content has changed over the past few years. While there are many who still sit in front of the TV all evening, there are also those who never watch TV at the time a programme is broadcast, preferring to catch shows via on-demand websites and apps, and enjoying them when the time is right for them on the device that suits.
Apple already offers content for these viewers to watch when they want, including older episodes of television shows, although at a cost, unlike the popular On Demand services that are available via the internet.
Of these On Demand services, the only one that can currently play on the Apple TV is iPlayer, and that's only via a workaround that's probably too complicated for the majority of people. It’s possible to beam iPlayer to your television from your iPad or iPhone via the Apple TV by tapping on the Apple TV icon that (should) appear when you double tap the Home button and swipe from left to right. It works most of the time (we have problems with our network at home and the icon often disappears). Even when it does work, it’s not Apple’s usual seamless way of doing things. As for the other on-demand apps on your iOS device, it’s not possible to beam them via Apple TV as they haven’t licensed AirPlay from Apple, so the sound will not play from your television set.
If these apps existed on the Apple TV, then presumably they would just work. Given that they are already available on the iOS, we can’t see any reason why Apple wouldn’t be able to offer them on the Apple TV, presuming the Apple TV was running iOS.
Evidence that Apple is negotiating these types of deals with broadcasters and content providers has come in the form of the HBO app which has been made available for the Apple TV in what could be the first of many On Demand deals as well as the fact that the latest update to the Apple TV bought with access to Sky News.
Not that it's been smooth going: Apple is said to have faced a stand off with cable and satellite companies who refused to authenticate the new HBO Go app when Apple pushed to out on the Apple TV in America earlier this year.
What content can we expect to see on the Apple Television?
The TV content available via the Apple Television is unlikely to be restricted to apps as we currently know them on the iPhone and iPad. However, reports suggest that Apple may have encountered difficulties trying to get the TV industry to work with it.
In contrast to Apple's ability to do deals with the music labels when they were facing a downturn due to easy access to pirated music, the broadcasters are not in quite such dire straits and are not so keen on handing over the reins to Apple.
Former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée notes that the obstacle is the “tangled, encrusted business models that the Comcasts, CBSs and Disneys cling to out of fear that Apple will wrest control of their content, that they’ll be disintermediated à la iTunes or the iPhone/iPad App Store.”
You might imagine that Apple would be well-placed to make deals with these companies: Steve Jobs was one of Disney’s biggest shareholders after it bought Pixar from him; plus Apple has years of experience selling the same programmes via iTunes that these companies broadcast on our TVs. However, selling content on iTunes is one thing, it’s quite another thing to do a deal with a network such as CBS or cable provider like Comcast, or the BBC, Sky or Virgin. Why would Sky give up a revenue stream to Apple?
And why, when the majority of networks have joined forces to offer OnDemand content via YouView, would they decide to let Apple in on the deal?
These companies are also likely to be put off by Apple’s penchant for delivering solutions that are closed, proprietary, and only work with Apple’s own hardware and software. The TV industry is unlikely to be happy with anything that doesn’t offer an open ecosystem accessible by any device. They may also be concerned about losing their link to customers in the way Apple overhauled the relationship between mobile networks and their customers after the iPhone debuted.
This hasn’t stopped Apple from trying. It would appear that it has approached both CBS and Comcast. Last year CBS chairman Les Moonves revealed to Bloomberg that he rejected different Apple TV proposals; while talks with Comcast, prior to the launch of the Apple TV, fell apart because the cable company wouldn’t let Apple control the entire experience.
Comcast’s Charlie Herrin said that while cable companies have released applications for the iPhone and iPad, there’s a reluctance to go further because: “Giving a third party too much control may lessen the value of the bundles of TV, internet and phone services that cable companies sell.”
Apple is said to be looking for a way around this, however. The recent deal with HBO Go suggests that Apple is targeting cable companies that will give it access to live broadcasting without needing new content agreements. The strategy would allow Apple customers to access a set of channels, paid for via a cable subscription, via its device, instead of leasing a set-top box from pay-TV operators for a monthly fee.
Reports towards the end of August suggested that Apple has been negotiating directly with TV content providers, rather than cable companies, as part of a new strategy that aims to enable the company to launch its widely speculated Apple Television product. Apple is said to be talking with production studios and networks including ESPN, HBO, Viacom, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, in a bid to convince them to provide content for an Apple television set that would emphasise apps over cable TV.
TV programmes as apps on the Apple TV
As an alternative to dealing with all the satellite and cable companies, Apple could offer content directly from the production companies, cutting out the middleman. Imagine a scenario where the producer would be able to sell a series through Apple in the form of an app that would always have the latest content. Apple would be pitched as a competitor to the cable and satellite companies, rather than working with them. You might think that’s an unlikely scenario, but back in January Apple won the exclusive chance to ‘broadcast’ the final three episodes of Downton Abbey before they aired in the US.
This solution could see Apple take on the broadcasters and satellite and cable providers at their own game and would open up a new revenue stream to production companies.
In fact, the iTV might even make it easy for you to create and broadcast your own shows.
In the future, we may be able to subscribe to TV shows in the form of apps. Currently, you can buy a series pass to a programme, with each new episode delivered directly to your device. Could a production company such as Endemol package up its programming in an app and allow subscribers to download the content to their devices, effectively cutting out the middle man?
It’s unlikely that the content providers and TV networks will be keen to lose a revenue stream, so perhaps Apple will let them sell subscriptions to customers via the App Store.
Jean-Louis Gassée wrote: “Cook has one thing right – the set-top box experience does place one back in time by 20 to 30 years. The solution? Channels, shows, special events should all be presented as apps. Click, pay and play, with standard fare for free. Catch the 6pm news when you get home at 9.30; watch two programmes side-by-side with Android 7 or iOS 9, all on your screen of choice: smartphone, tablet, PC or TV”.
Incidentally, back in 2009 there was a report claimed that Apple was working on a $30 per month TV subscription service that you would access via iTunes.
Will I be able to record TV on the Apple Television?
Apple is said to be in talks with cable companies in the US, hoping to come to an agreement that would allow the Apple TV to be used as a DVR (digital video recorder). A Wall Street Journal report from last September claimed that the DVR version of the Apple TV will let customers store TV shows in iCloud to be watched when they like. It would also allow users to access the TV shows they had ‘recorded’ on the iPhone or iPad.
Such a facility would turn the Apple TV into more than a mere streaming device and increase the content available to users. However, it’s reported that content providers are opposed to giving Apple permission to make their programming available in this way; free, for example.
Nevertheless, since the ability to record is standard on most devices (the Apple TV being the exception), it seems likely that Apple would offer such a feature. We can imagine a scenario where the recording would take place in the cloud and be available to watch on any of your Apple devices. Then again, is it really necessary to ‘record’ something that’s readily available to stream at any time?
One reason to store the recording on your device could be so you can watch the content offline, rather than streaming it. We love the BBC’s iPlayer app, because we can download content and (within a timeframe) watch it offline. This suits a device that is often offline, in the case of a television, however, it is likely that it could be always online.
Will I have to watch adverts on the Apple TV?
Apple is said to want to offer a television service that lets people skip adverts. Of course fast-forwarding through adverts is hardly a new thing. In fact, it was a lot easier to skip through adverts on old video recorders than it is on new DVRs and on OnDemand websites.
Last year Apple was granted a television related patent that describes technology that could swap in a different stream of video during a commercial break. That patent describes a way for “seamless switching” that would let users switch between broadcast content and locally stored media when content that doesn’t interest them is playing. Commercials are listed as one of these types of content that can be replaced by stored media. Using the patented technology and other data, the device would be able to predict whether an “upcoming broadcast segment or media item is not of interest to the user” and automatically switch to on-device content.
Now Apple is said to be proposing a system by which it pays media companies when viewers skip commercials, according to the Wall Street Journal's Jessica Lessin. Apple's premium television service would be offered to customers at a price, while the networks would be recompensed for those missed commercials.
This is unlikely to mean a completely ad-free experience though. Apple has itself dabbled in commercials, though the company has never been particularly successful at it. When Steve Jobs launched the in-app iAd program in 2010, the intent was to class up advertising - "We want to change the quality of the advertising," the late CEO said at the time. As a result, the initial minimum buy-in for ads was $1 million, and was targeted at high-end, premium customers like car companies, fashion firms, and the like.
What Apple is attempting to do with its ad-skipping plan, however, is bridge the stalemate: Don't tick off consumer by making them watch the endless, annoying ads that they're used to being able to skip or avoid and, at the same time, throw the broadcast networks a bone in the form of some revenue. It's roughly analogous to what Apple tried with its iTunes Match service: Sure, many users ended up with free, legitimate copies of songs that they'd acquired through –ahem - alternative means, but at £25-per-year, the record companies brought in money that they otherwise never would have seen.