Today, streaming music is all the rage and every product looks and works much the same. Apple enjoyed owning the music industry for awhile, but that was then and this is now. What about television? Can Apple repeat with television what it did with the music industry?
That Ship Sailed
Talk of an Apple television or a television service has permeated the blogosphere for years. It won’t happen. Get over it. The music industry was dying and needed a savior. The television industry, ripe for change, yes, makes money hand over fist and doesn’t want to open up the palms to share anything with Apple.
Instead, Apple set the stage for its own disruption by making the App Store and applications available for everyone. Why bother cutting a deal with Apple to stream television shows to the public when the television networks can do it themselves? Who needs Apple?
Already you can get apps and monthly services from CBS, HBO, MLB, and others. There’s Dish’s Sling TV and Time Warner’s mobile service to keep customers in their fold by letting paying subscribers get their TV fix from any device, anywhere. Apps are becoming the new network channels, and each channel wants to manage their own customer base with their own app, their own subscription service.
This Could Work
Think of what television viewers truly, madly, deeply want. Video on demand. All of it. Anywhere. Anytime. Pay as you go. Pay as you use. That means every TV show ever would be available via an app, streamable to any device. The solution is not a technical issue. Apple could get something like that up and running in months if it were allowed to buy all the TV networks and movie studios.
Instead, step by step, networks are moving toward their own solution, sans Apple. Hulu plans to launch an internet TV service. Amazon already has a streaming service. Hulu’s package could include Fox, ABC, FX, ESPN and other networks, though each network could be free to manage their own streaming service via their own apps.
This could work if it provided viewers with more content than currently available on standard cable TV outlets. It won’t. Some of the content offered by Hulu’s venture– as it is with CBS, HBO, and others– will be the same, and if you add up how much a viewer must spend to subscribe to multiple channels as apps, what’s the point? Nothing got cut. Massive bandwidth– usually from the cable TV company– is required to stream the same videos but from a different source.
Ala carte has advantages, of course. There’s little wrong with picking only what you want to watch and discarding all the rest (the way cable TV works now), but it’s good only if the monthly fee for what you want and watch is less than a cable TV subscription is when it gives you 300 channels. Otherwise, what’s the point?
But Not With Apple
Apple’s window of opportunity to do anything with television seems to have closed, and the ship has sailed. All Apple gets to do is sell devices where we can watch television and distribute the apps where we can access the channels we want to watch. The only hope the company has left is if it becomes a cable TV service itself, bundles or packages various TV networks together, and sells a variety of levels to an eager base of customers who want to cut the cord. All that’s happening here is cutting one cord only to be attached to another.