Failed? I know what you’re thinking. “Say it ain’t so, Kate!” Where has Apple succeeded in television? Apple TV? Puhleeze. Apple TV for television viewing is anemic. Apple TV for games and apps has promise, of course, but we all know what we want. Apple has the money to deliver it. It just won’t happen.
The problem with what I’ll call simply the television industry (which includes the movie industry which provides much content for TV) is that it’s complicated. There are many players who vie for various slices of the revenue pie. Content makers, distributors, producers, cable TV networks, movie studios, cable TV companies, broadcast TV networks, local TV stations, and many others.
Apple plays but a small part in that industry, thanks largely to iTunes, which sells and rents video content. Apple TV’s slice of that pie is anemic at best; wrought with potential, yes, but going nowhere faster than ever.
Many of the high value content networks, referred to as channels, on Apple TV require a cable TV company account, too, so the added value of watching a network on Apple TV vs. the same network on your TV from the cable company is nominal and maybe not discernible. Amazon and Netflix are creating their own content. Apple sells us an expensive box that cannot replace the cable TV box.
What We Want
You know what you want, right? Access to content. All of it. On demand. Current TV shows and movies. Reruns of TV shows from years gone by. Just like iTunes for music (more than 30-million songs in the library), but for television shows and movies.
Oh, and make it affordable, too, because I’m tired of shelling out a few hundred bucks for a few hundred channels while I watch a dozen. Hello? It’s the 21st century. Can you spell à la carte? Let me select from everything available, whenever I want, and pay as I go. The more I watch, the more I pay. The less I watch, the less I pay.
That’s what we want.
What does Apple do? This year they sell an overpriced box that has a bolted on game and app platform, but works much like the Apple TV of yesteryear. Where’s HomeKit? Where’s FaceTime on TV? Where are all the channels and TV shows and movies we want to watch?
To be fair to Apple, this scenario is not totally the company’s fault. The players in the industry are many and varied and much different than the music recording industry was when iTunes launched way back when. TV has a big revenue pie, but many players, each with their own slice, and none are willing to share anything with Apple unless they get a big cut of whatever Apple gets.
Apple’s very deep pockets hurt the company when negotiating with content providers who ask for ever more ridiculous sums from the nouveau riche kid on the block. The company has the money, of course, but not the will to lose money by becoming a niche player in an expensive, complex, and highly competitive industry.
Worse, Apple TV as a platform will only succeed when the number of units reaches a critical mass which means using Apple TV to get unrestricted content à la carte From Apple. Or somewhere. Pay per view exists as an industry product, but only for special events, and usually at outrageous prices. Pay per view for only what we watch is a pipe dream made worthless unless we can view everything we want to watch on TV whenever and wherever we choose to watch.
That’s it. The television industry is a tough nut to crack and Apple isn’t doing it. Wait. About television, didn’t Steve Jobs say, “I finally cracked it?”