Apple's Promised TV Revolution Will Be More Of The Same Crap, Thanks To Terrified Cable & Broadcast Executives
from the killing-innovation-in-the-cradle dept
For countless years we’ve all been inundated with rumors that a television revolution would soon be delivered any day now by Apple, whose legendary former CEO at one point claimed he had “cracked the code” on delivering a truly disruptive, intuitive and innovative TV platform. Yet this miracle TV revolution never seems to materialize, and it’s not (outside of perhaps Apple’s marketing machine) really the fault of Apple. The road toward TV disruption is littered with the corpses of countless similar projects from the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Google. With a few small successes, every last one of them has inevitably run, face-first and at full-sprint, into a restrictive broadcast-industry content licensing wall used to prevent disruption.
The press certainly shares some of the blame as well for over-hyping products on demand, as most recently made evident by the collapse of Intel’s TV ambitions. Intel’s OnCue system was presented in 2012 as the next great TV revolution that was sure to arrive any day now. That was, until a slow drip of reports indicated that they too couldn’t get around broadcast-industry licensing restrictions. That technology has since been sold on the cheap to Verizon, who’ll utilize the useful bits and sit on the rest, afraid of offering anything that could possibly cannibalize their legacy TV FIOS user base.
Apple has been hammering their head against this same brick wall for the better part of a decade now, and even though the business and earnings potential of a well-built Apple-based hardware partnership could potentially be immense, the broadcast and cable industry is too terrified to budge. Rumors have ranged over the years from an Apple TV set to a live a la carte TV subscription service, and now have skidded to an underwhelming halt with Apple having to settle for what’s just an Apple TV hardware and GUI refresh with a lovely coat of underachieved ambition. From the Wall Street Journal:
In 2012, the Journal reported that Apple was talking with cable operators like Time Warner Cable about a set-top box and was approaching media companies to gain rights for an ambitious Internet-based digital-video-recording service through the box. At the time, it was looking to offer full seasons of current shows, as well as live programming. Last year, it approached media companies with a proposal to pay extra for ad-free programming.
But it couldn’t complete a deal. Programmers resisted the idea of ad-free TV, and Time Warner Cable balked at some of Apple’s early proposals, which included Apple essentially taking over the cable operator’s video-on-demand service.
Worse, the Journal notes, is that Apple was only able to acquire “just the most recent five episodes of current-season shows,” and is having to battle for the ability to fast-forward commercials three days after they air (which they may not even get). So Apple’s ambitions went from Steve Jobs dreaming about revolutionizing the sector, to yet another product intentionally hamstrung so it underwhelms (in much the same way the industry has relentlessly crippled Hulu). Can’t you just feel the cutting edge excitement?
Many like to argue that Apple managed to help revolutionize music sales and can do the same here, but it’s precisely the cable and broadcast executive fear of that history that has made securing flexible licenses such a Sisyphean feat. On the bright side, like any good disruption-phobic legacy industry, they can only delay inevitable evolution, not kill it. It might be Apple, it most-likely will be somebody else, and it may take the better part of the next decade — but it’s coming eventually whether the myopic and timid cable industry likes it or not.